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.

Queens, Queens, Queens

Albany John has talked about this one place since we started dating. “The Czech beer hall in Astoria with these really good sausages, and…” has been mentioned a few times, and he finally decided to head on down and check it out this weekend.

We drove down later on Friday night, totally skipping shitty traffic and managed to find parking in Woodside. My family’s got a place we can crash at in Woodside, and I really appreciate that we’re allowed there whenever we’re in the area.

But any way, mushiness aside, a trip to Woodside means I can’t miss a stop at Tacos del Ray, the taco cart that hunkers just under the elevtated 7 train on 54th Street. $11 for 5 tacos, and Albany John and I are happy people. He got spicy pork (enchilada), lengua, and another filling that I can’t quite remember. And they gave us lots of sauce to share.

I got lengua and pastor. Man, I like a nice tongue taco (that’s what she said). I love how generous they are with the onion and cilantro toppings, plus lime wedges on the side. All for $2 or $2.50 per taco. They also have tortas and quesadillas, and a few drinks.

The tounge was definitely tongue! Definitely on the “This is an offal” flavor scope. Deep mineral flavor. Really tasty with some lime juice, and the green and red sauces. What is the green sauce?! It’s so addictive I want to put it on everything! I think there might be avocado in it, because it’s pretty creamy tasting, too.

They’re so nice, too. All of the tacos are made when you order them, and I probably would have eaten three more, but hey, we had beer to drink. Okay, and some cocktails to pre-game with, and boy don’t those lime wedges come in handy for impromptu guava cosmos. But that’s neither here nor there.

We hopped on the 7 line, switched to the Q and made our way allllmost to the end of the line where we got off on Astoria (Hoyt Ave). I WEAR INAPPROPRIATE FOOTWEAR!

Actually, while you get some looks for being in heels in casual places in Albany, most places in the 5 boroughs don’t really give a crap if you’re overdressed, which is one of my favorite things about going there.

Yeah, it’s blurry, but this is what you’re looking for. If you’ve never been, hey, it’s something to give you a marker, right?

Maybe. I don’t know. But either way, Bohemia Hall and Beer Garden was super fun. Albany John used to come here back in the day with his friend from the Czech republic, and they serve lots of Czech beers on tap for $5 per half liter glass, or $15 per pitcher.

Bouncers were really nice, and we got there just a few minutes before it started filling up, and even snagged seats at the bar!

Woo hoo, bar seats! The interior is larger than it looks, with an outdoor beer garden that I can see getting packed in nicer weather. The immediate inside has some tall wooden booths, and some TVs on the walls. They were playing Johnny Cash. Like a CD or something. Albany John and I were wondering if the Cash man is popular in the Czech Republic, or if he’s just got some good music to drink to.

We started off with a pitcher of… dark beer? Yeah, I let Albany John do the ordering. I have no idea what it was. But I drank it, and it was tasty. It was like coffee, and wasn’t really heavy even though it was dark. The bartender was nice – he checked glasses when he filled them to make sure they were clean, and would put ones he didn’t like away. I don’t know, I like that – wanting to give your customers the best/cleanest glasses you have.

I couldn’t tell if it was how they pour beers there or what, but whenever someone would get a beer, there’d be a lot of head, which the bartenders would then pour off while pouring in more beer. It was a different way of pouring beer than I’m used to, and it seemed like it might have been a little more waste than just pouring from the tap and holding the cup at more of an angle, but who knows if that changes the flavor? It’s one of those things that makes me wish I were Zane Lamprey, so I could go behind the scenes and ask them about their styles and how things work.

The next morning Albany John went to hang with one of our friends. He wanted to make this a more friends oriented trip, and I really wanted to go see him since I haven’t seen this friend in forever (he’s from our old CDFI days), but I also couldn’t pass up yum cha with my Yeh-Yeh.

Yeh-Yeh won out. Yeh-Yeh always wins out. We went to Mellie’s, his favorite restaurant, in Flushing. I love hanging out with my Yeh-Yeh. Har cheung, har gow, the usual, ya know?

Beef tendon in some red kind of sauce. Really soft. My uncle’s surprised I like it. Then again, I used to love McDonald’s cheeseburgers as a kid, so, yeah. Beef tendon is kind of the beef polar opposite of that, although they’re probably an ingredient in the burgers.

Fried shrimp ball. Covered in Almonds. Pretty heavy on the white pepper, but fried well. We were there early, so some of the stuff wasn’t as super-fresh as it would have been during the rush. I’d like to try some different places when I go to Flushing, but I can’t say no to my Yeh-Yeh. If it’s Mellie’s he wants, then Mellie’s he gets!

He also wrestled the bill out of my hand when I tried to pay. I mean physically wrestled the bill from my hand. Grab wrist with one hand, twist bill out of palm with other hand. He might be 80 years old, but good lord, he does not miss a beat when bill paying time comes. I think next time I’m going to have to come armed with cash in a pocket and thrust it at the server as soon as the check lands. Either that, or work on my defensive bill paying guard.

So after dim sum, we hung for a bit more, but I had to go off to Manhattan to go wedding dress shopping with Manhattan Maka and her mom. But before that I did something horrible. Something unspeakable. It was so cold, and I was wearing a dress and…

LEGGINGS. I BOUGHT LEGGINGS. Socks wouldn’t have covered it, and I didn’t have time to stop over in Woodside to change before meeting up in Manhattan. Also, they were $2, so I figured it would be fine for the day. But man, guess who really hates neon pink clubby looking leggings with cheap plastic ‘jewels’ hot glued on the side? Wedding dress boutiques, haha! It’s okay, I hated myself too.

Manhattan Maka found her wedding dress, and then I went over to her place, where Albany John had made his way to hang with his brother, CVS. They moved to Queens too, so it was nice to see the new apartment. Way bigger than what they had in Manhattan, and almost half the price, too. Oh real estate, your floors and ceilings are so economical (HAHAH! Ok, I’m a dork. I know.)

One of Albany John’s friends and his wife were heading out for drinks at Rockefeller plaza, which would have been nice, but I told him I thought I was a bit underdressed with the lame leggings and all, and he goes “Well, you’re the one the decided to dress up like Rainbow Brite,”. I was about to say thank you, but then I realized it probably wasn’t a compliment. But as someone who grew up watcing Rainbow Brite and wanting to BE rainbow brite, hello, how is that supposed to sound bad? That’s like saying “I know, we shouldn’t go out. BECAUSE YOU LOOK TOO AWESOME”

Instead we got sucked into a marathon of Jersey Shore at Manahattan Maka and CVS’ new place, and by the time we got back to Woodside, we ordered some delivery from Tomo sushi. I think they’re in Jackon Heights? I don’t know. But we got an eel and avocado roll, and a ton of nigiri because they were all $1 each! Yay!

8 delicious salmons for our bellies. And white tuna. So much to nom. So good. So, so good.

And toro and tobiko, and yellowtail, and salmon roe. And HAPPINESS. I don’t usually like salmon roe, but for some reason I felt like ordering it, and this time I liked it. Cool.

We headed out the next morning. I got us out most of the way, but only screwed up going the wrong way on the FDR. I have driven this SO many times. I don’t know how I messed that one up, but I did. So I called my dad checked with my personal GPS Navigation system and eventually realized I was only a block off and made it back upstate for apple picking with my dad and Sistah.


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.

Day Two in the Deep South

Read about Day 1 in Mississippi here.

On our second day, we drove over to my Dad’s hotel to meet up for breakfast. I noticed a Krispy Kreme with glowing “Hot” sign on our way over. I begged and whined asked if we could stop in, and hooray, we did!

We got the baby a cup of iced coffee and a few original Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I’m kidding – he’s not eating solid food yet. We just tossed some extra creamer in the coffee for him.

BTW, I forgot how sweet iced drinks are in the south. I got mine without milk, and it still came loaded with sugar. Not bad, but wow was that a sugar rush in the morning.

After that we toyed around with the idea of a picnic at the local reservoir. I say ‘toyed around with’ because no one in their right mind would actually have a picnic outside at high noon in Mississippi in August. We thought about getting a crawfish boil to snack on at a table there.

We visited Mudbugs Crawfish at 1299 Old Fanin Road, Brandon, MS. They were closed and opening mid August. We just missed them. Ugh. No crawdads for us.

However, there was a farm stand on Old Fannin Road right next to Mudbugs. I had to stop in and see it. You could see the tables of peaches from the road!

They had an impressive selection of beans. Albany John saw a guy leaving with one of these huge bags and had a big twinge of jealousy. They were all fresh, and about $20 for huge sleeves of shelled beans. Here are those peaches. They were from Alabama. They looked very juicy. We wanted to get some, but weren’t sure how much longer we’d be in the car and didn’t want them to turn to mush in the heat.

Here’s a section where you can buy beans by weight. Look at ’em, all lined up and pretty!

We couldn’t help but feel envious of this sign. Fall tomatoes. Now is the time to plant fall tomatoes. A second season for tomatoes! I’m still waiting for my tomatoes to turn red.

After that we hit up one of the places on list of restaurants to try. I found some really neat local blogs – Carpe Jackson and The Cynical Cook. They were a great resource for someone looking for good food in the Jackson, MS area.

My dear husbear makes fun of me and my moderately obsessive planning tendencies, but after eating at Taqueria La Guadalupe (6537 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, MS) I think he might see some method to my madness. These were excellent tacos. I’d written “AWESOME, MUST TRY” on the list. Everyone seemed to love this place. And Taqueria La Guadalupe did not disappoint.

They had some Hispanic flags and light decorations on the wall, but it was, for the most part, a pretty barebones taqueria joint. We had 5 of us and the kiddo, and had a bit of a squeeze into a booth. It’s more for take out of smaller groups. They did have a high chair, though.
The menu. Hola, mami! I’d heard tell about the crispy tripe tacos and tongue tacos and had to order them. They’re not on the menu board, but they’ll make them for you.

Several hot sauces. The green was mild, red hot, and the orange was tongue-numbingly hot.

Albany John and I ordered 7 tacos between the two of us, and we could have easily eaten seven more. They were all great! The soft, thin corn tortilla was pliable and tender – not thick or rubbery at all. Yum. The fillings were a bit hard to figure out, but we’d all ordered basically the entire menu of tacos, so we poked around a bit and figured it out.

The tripe tacos seemed more like intestine. They weren’t honeycomb or deep fried crispy, but looked like intestines that had been crisply seared on the grill. Either way, it was AMAZINGLY AWESOME. It tasted like chicharrones, and had a great chew to it. No funkiness at all. Just goodness.
The tongue taco was intensely beefy. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, but oh man was I glad I ordered this one. So good. They said they’d make any kind of taco or burrito you wanted. Bro and I were seriously considering a tongue or tripe burrito to go.

This was definitely a real-deal, authentic taqueria. Beautifully dressed tacos for $2.25 each (they have a lunch combo – 3 tacos and a drink for $7.50) that tasted SO incredibly good. If you’re in the area, you can’t miss going here – just amazing.
So after an early taco lunch, we hung out a little more. The baby got all tired. I guess we should have ordered a shot of espresso for him in his coffee.
Bro, Dad, Albany John, and I headed out to cross off another restaurant on my list, and on the way there passed a Sonic. Hooray, Sonic!

They even take credit cards now. The display is hard to read, but woo hoo, credit cards at Sonic!

They make their cherry limeades in diet now! Woo hoo! I got a large diet cherry limeade. Check out that pellet ice! So good!

After getting our drinks, we headed over to find La Omonia bakery, another local place I found through the small network of local Jackson, MS bloggers. Albany John and Bro thought it was called La Ammonia Bakery and were wondering why the hell we’d want to go to a place called ammonia. Okay, I guess the two sound alike.

We arrived later in the day and they were all out of baked goods. But we did see a blue Honda with Lambo doors parked just out front. The inside looks like it used to be a Quizno’s and they haven’t changed much. La Omonia seems to be primarily a take out kind of place any way, so it doesn’t really matter.
I think I was undercharged. It was only, like, $11 for all the food I ordered. I think it should have been a little more. I guess it just shows that wearing mini skirts pays off, hunh?

This little container of fried plantains came with caramel or sour cream. We chose caramel. They were fried to perfection. A few crunchy ends that had become caramlized themselves were great.

Margarita was at home takin care of the baby, but we saw a Honduran section on the menu, and Bro was like “Yeah, you better order something for her,”. I forget what this was called, but it was like a breakfast quesadilla.

I thought I was just ordering something with black beans and cheese, but those ingredients came topped over an egg. Margarita said something about eating it for breakfast growing up, and how their beans were perfectly Honduran.

I got a smoked pork torta, which is a fancy way of saying “sandwich”. It was about $6.50 and the size of a football.

The strips of pork were nicely smoked, and the sandwich had some cheese, avocado, lettuce, and side of chipotle sauce.

It was fine. I would have ordered tacos, but they made you order in 3s, and I wanted to order them solo. Besides, this was just a snack before dinner. Mmmm, second lunch.

We noticed this adorably retro place called Bop’s that served frozen custard. I had to try some.

They ask you if you want ice with your pint/quart orders. You should probably say yes. Even in a car with AC, it still melts pretty quickly. This pint was something like $3.50, I think. Maybe $4. Either way, it was also good stuff.

We dove right in to our pint of vanilla custard. It had a pleasant eggy flavor to it. Yum, good frozen custard. It’s not much different than ice cream or gelato, just richer in eggs. Either way, I would sure love a frozen custard shop in Albany.

We munched on the frozen custard at Bro’s place. My dad ensured cat loyalty by giving their finicky feline a massage.

After that, Margarita and I went out shopping for a dress for her to wear to the kiddo’s christening. We wound up in a Stein Mart, which I can only descirbe as Cougariffic. The clothes were geared more towards women of a certain age trying to dress like women of an earlier age. Or an earlier decade.
I found this lovely gem for only $35. A sleeveless jumpsuit with flapper fringe all over the top. Better tell all those young whippersnappers at Sadie’s to watch out, ’cause Albany Jane’s a comin’ and is ready to par-tay.
Margarita and I were laughing in the dressing room, and I had three cougars come up and tell me how great it looked.

We came back and the menfolk had cooked up some beef stew out of a chuck roast. Really yummy – melt in your mouth tender beef.

Read on to Day Three

Tacos and Exploding Ketchup

My trip to Western Mass isn’t completely done. I still have to tell you guys about the great tacos I had, plus the case of the exploding ketchup. But first, tacos.

I was reading this book on Latin American food while Albany John drove over, and by the end of it, I was really jonesing for some tacos. He suggested we take the longer way home to stop at Mi Tierra for a few snacks. Mi Tierra is located on what I consider Hadley’s main strip – 206 Russell St, Hadley MA 01035. It’s in a strip mall across from a motel.

The inside is bright and shiny. It looks really warm. It used to be a grocery store, but they’ve really made the interior nice.I remember the last time we were in here a few years ago this side of the restaurant was partly a store. Now it’s a cute bar, with additional seating.

Hey, Mi Tierra guys, can you come to Albany? Because we would really appreciate you and treat you right. These tacos were exactly what I was craving – pliable, soft corn tortillas encasing chopped bits of well seasoned meat and some accents. The tacos above are beef. It may have been brisket. Stewed well, seasoned, and wonderfully moist.

However, I would have gotten two orders of pork if I knew how good the pork was. Get the pork tacos. Oh my gosh – is this al pastor? I have no idea, but it was a little spicy, and dripping with juice and fat. They were just perfect.
The tacos at Mi Tierra are just what tacos should be – all about the meat (and wonderfully flavored meat, at that) with just a garnishing of misc veggies. In this case it was raw onion and cilantro. None of this lettuce, tomato, onion, cabbage, corn, etc., business that basically turns your taco into a mini burrito. Just pure, simple tacos.
Both came with fresh wedges of lime, and a tomatillo salsa that I was practically drinking.
Prices were insanely fair – 3 tacos for $5. So we spent $10 on taco snacks that really hit the spot.

For dinner Papa Amherst took us to The Harp (163 Sunderland Rd, Amherst, MA) for seafood. At an Irish pub. The staff were really friendly, and we found a booth inside to sit at (they had just done some charity event outside, so outdoor seating was a no-go that night).
It looks kind of dive-y from the interior, but in a good way. Worn with age, and various local jerzees pinned to the ceiling.

I ordered one of the specials of the night – fried clam bellies. All meals come with fries normally, but they were all out, so we got WAFFLE FRIES!!!!! I squeed when I heard our waitress say “waffle fries”.
The bellies were tasty – fried lightly with a soft exterior. Helped showcase the sweet briny flavor in whole clams. I got one funky clam, but I ate through it (hello, it’s fried seafood) and other than that, no problems. It came with tartar sauce and coleslaw. I thought my coleslaw tasted like soap, but Albany John’s was fine. THE WAFFLE FRIES WERE AWESOME. Seasoned with salt and paprika, they were crunchy on the outside, and softly potato-y on the inside, and not greasy. A great example of waffle fries. They stayed crisp throughout the meal.
Papa Amherst got fish & chips. This was also a good one. The fish’s exterior was crunchy on the outside, with a moist fish interior.

Mama Amherst ordered the kielbasa and kraut sandwich, but didn’t taste much kraut. She said the kielbasa was good, though.

Albany John got the broiled scallops. They were larger than bay scallops, and had a nice buttery sauce to accompany them. No complaints there, a solid dish.

And as soon as I took this picture, Papa Amherst opened up the ketchup to squirt on his waffle fries when

The ketchup exploded EVERYWHERE. Papa Amherst was covered in ketchup, and Mama Amherst and I had gotten a decent amount of spray as well. Albany John was untouched since I was taking the picture of his food and covered him from any ketchup rain.

The staff were super apologetic about it, and we couldn’t stop laughing. A bottle of ketchup just exploded on us. When does that ever happen? And it went EV.ER.Y.WHERE.
I went to rinse ketchup off of my arms and shirt in the bathroom, and when I came back out they were wiping down the booth, apologizing like crazy, while Papa Amherst was lamenting wearing an orange shirt and not a white one (because then the ketchup *really* would have shown).
Our waitress told us that it had happened a few weeks ago (I guess heat, plus those plastic ketchup bottles that are oriented so the squeezy part is on the bottom = occasional ketchup explosion) and that we took it really well. The last guy was beyond pissed, but dude, how could you be pissed – WHEN DOES THAT HAPPEN? Now you can say you had a bottle of ketchup EXPLODE ON YOU. I don’t even like ketchup, but I still think that’s awesome.
Our meal was entirely comped, too. What?! The bartender told us that while he was wiping the booth. Later on our waitress was like “I just want to let you guys know your meal is free. On us. We’re really sorry. Do you want any more to drink?” (Man, you’ve got to love her, hunh?)
In NY we’d probably get an apology, and maybe Papa Amherst’s dish would be comped or discounted. Or a waitress in NY would have left a receipt of how much your meal would have been, with the not-so-subtle subtext of “I hate comps, you guys better tip me over 20% of this imaginary bill”. But wow, for the entire meal to get comped, and for everyone working to genuinely apologize repeatedly… man, I already had a great time at The Harp and can’t wait to go back again.
I hope I get another exploding ketchup bottle.

Year of the Tiger

Whew, what a trip! I am wiped out. Well, let’s start at the beginning – Albany John and I left for NYC to celebrate Chinese New Year on Saturday night. We made it into Woodside and then drove around for about 20 minutes looking for some free street parking. Managed to find it at 52nd street, which also happens to be one of the 7 line’s stops. I took a picture to remind me when I had to be back to move my car on Monday.

However, before continuing on our trip to the UES, we took a quick pit stop at the taco truck located on Roosevelt at nights and ordered a chorizo &… some other kind of taco. They were $2 each. My chorizo was nicely spicy, and the other kind Albany John ordered was pork & beef. Really good stuff, too.

They even packed little hot sauce containers. Albany John liked the smoky red hot sauce, while I liked the milder tomatillo sauce better. Either way, I have got to try everything else at the taco truck the next time I can.

We even got some pickled radishes – pickley goodness.

After we spent an awesome night kicking it with Manhattan Maka and CVS, we made our way down to Manhattan Chinatown. But I had some covert ops planned along the way.

My little sister is a strict vegan and has been planning on going raw. She’s also gluten-free, sugar-free, and caffeine-free. While I don’t think raw is necessarily the most viable diet at times for the northeast, I still wanted to give her a meal to eat with everyone at Chinese New Year dinner since she’d mentioned before about how it was nice to be social, but kind of bummed that she wouldn’t consume anything.

So I searched on teh intarwebs and found a few viable restaurants that served raw food. I mean, it’s freaking New York City. They’ve got just about everything you can think of to eat there. A lot of places were closed on Sundays, yipes! And then I found One Lucky Duck – a smaller offshoot of Pure Food & Wine that served only raw food. And a good amount were also only open past 5 pm. But One Lucky Duck was open in the morning, so we hopped off the 6 train before we got to Chinatown and stopped in.

It’s small. Like, REALLY small. Since I’d already looked over the menus ad nauseum online, I knew what I wanted to order. I figured I’d order her two entrees since the serving sizes looked really small.
This was kind of harder than I’d thought, or maybe easier, depending on how you looked at it. I could really only order her two entrees anyway, since there were only two that were gluten-free on their menu. I’m just saying, if you’re vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, and stimulant-free, it’s really hard to find something to eat. My sister was also thinking of going nut-free, so I kept calling and asking her what her restrictions were all last week to double check, but she’d never get back to me, so I crossed my fingers and and ordered the lasagna, which had nut pestos in it.

She’s yelled at me in the past when I’ve asked her what her restrictions are and why. I’m just always curious about food and things I don’t understand, like self-imposed restrictions, but for some reason she always takes it negatively after I’d ask some cursory questions and then start screaming at me about being some expletive for not supporting her lifestyle. She’s mellowed out a little bit, but I was nervous that I’d screwed up again somehow.

I could tell this would be a good restaurant – the store was rife with hipsters. Unfortunately I wasn’t wearing a hat, multi-purpose bag, and looked for the most part Squeaky-Clean and polished, so I stuck out like a sore thumb. I am sure the stilletos didn’t help either.

It’s a nice little space, but wow, is it ever tiny. Still, the small space helped make it seem homey, and you got close to your neighbors.

Food in bag, we hopped back on the subway and made it to Chinatown. It was a complete mad house of people, bang snaps, and confetti poppers.

We visited a Buddhist temple and prayed a bit in front of this gigantic golden Buddha.

Then saw a lion. All of the really good lions always ended up being on the other side of the street, but isn’t that always how it goes?

Right before we went to dinner I gave my sister her CNY gifts. They got a little pushed around on the subway rides and in the crowds. Here are the tacos. Three per order, and I was not quite prepared for how tiny they would be, or why they would put them in such a large container. They could each have fit in my hand.

It was mostly guacamole (a whole LOT of guacamole. So I guess even tho it’s small, it’s still filling) placed in raw taco ‘shells’ that were made of sundried tomato. I liked the guac, but the shells reminded me of a savory fruit leather. The cashew ‘sour cream’ was awesome! It had the exact texture of sour cream, and while I wouldn’t confuse the flavor of the real stuff and raw stuff any time soon, I thought this was a really impressive alternative.

The famous lasagna from Pure Food & Wine (they share a kitchen) is a teensy bit cheaper here, and consists of raw zucchini, tomatoes, and nut creams, pesto, and sundried tomato sauce blops. I tried a bite and also liked this. I would like to try and make something like this myself in the summer, when it’s hotter.

Both of the entrees were $19 each, so after tax it was a little over $41. Steep. I think it was worth it for a special treat for the new year. My sister really appreciated it, and hopefully she will keep an open mind about her diet. I had fun since I like trying new stuff, and maybe if I have a little extra scratch this summer I’ll give a recipe a try.

We went to Mellie’s in Flushing for Chinese New Year Dinner – it’s right on Northern Ave and also has a tea bar in the front. Cute. We were the first ones in, and had reservations, and for some reason they sat us at what might have been one of the crappier tables. It was way in the corner, had folding chairs, and our lazy susan had dish washer soap stains on it (you can see it a little above, next to the spilled tea).

I really never care about where I’m seated in a restaurant, but this just made no sense to me. They had lots of other tables with nice chairs that were already set… just… weird.

Started off dinner with the jellyfish + cold cuts appetizer. The jellyfish was seasoned well, and these were some of the best cold cuts I’ve eaten. They were very moist – not tough and chewy or anything.

Shrimp and snowpeas. The large shrimp pleasingly popped in my mouth, but didn’t really have much flavor. The white sauce was a little thick on the cornstarch making it gloppy, slippery, and not very flavorful. I thought it could have used some salt. A Chinese dish needing SALT.

Salt & Pepper pork! One of my faves, but unfortch this was not some of the best I’ve had. There were a LOT of bones in these small pieces, and several pieces were mostly bone. A little on the oily/greasy side too. They were kind of like salt and pepper pork poppers in size.

Lamb casserole. Yummy – the soupy liquid was thin but had lots of flavor. Impressive. I especially liked the bean curd skins that soaked up lots of lamby flavor. Yum, yum.

Fried tofu stuffed with shrimp. I really liked these. Super-soft tofu with a nice crispy edge and a shrimp on top. Yum. Sauce it with the stuff in the back and you’re good to go.

We also got snow pea tips, and a whole fried chicken. Lots of food and moving chopsticks here!

Whole fried chicken in some kind of sauce. The crispy skin was good.

Overall I liked all of the dishes, I just didn’t have a particular favorite. I’m not sure I’d jump to go back with all of the other great options in Flushing. I was most happy to spend time with my grandfather and the rest of my family. We had a great time talking and chatting, and at one point my dad and his best girlie got up and danced around a little bit. They were super cute.

The music they were playing was really random – Linkin Park, Chinese metal band, and then the Girl from Ipanema. Ecclectic, to say the least.
And, free red bean soup. My grandfather tried to make Albany John eat it (we only wanted a few bowls, not everyone wanted some), but I ate it for him. Albany John hates sweet red beans. I thought it was a little watery, but the tapioca pearls were quite nice.
Okay, I have loads more to tell you guys, but right now I need to go bang my head against a wall, so I’ll be back when I’m done with that.

Badass Burrito

After perusing the Metroland, Albany John noticed that Badass Burrito in Lansingburgh (aka North, North, North Troy, NY) had $1 taco and beer night on Saturdays and Mondays. He called up and they said it was an all day special. Woot!

So we went there Saturday night. Dinner time. I guess the leetle bit of snow scared folks off because there weren’t many people in the bar and soon we were the only ones there.

The Saturday and Monday special is:
$1 chicken, ground beef, or pulled pork tacos
$1 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (one of my faves!)

We ate and drank for $10 flat. Two tacos and beers for me, three tacos and beers for Albany John.

Got to chat with one of the owners who was running the behind the bar area. Really cool guy who gave me the impression he really liked talking with us. You know how at some places you get the “Okay, get your food, get out, and leave me a tip.” vibe? Not here. We all were chatting, killing time, whatever – it was enjoyable conversation. When I was in the service industry I didn’t care about people that sat a while and chatted when the place was dead. I don’t get folks who act all icy and like they want you to leave when it’s dead. I was always glad to just talk to someone because it made the time fly by faster and I usually had some fun conversations too. That’s how talking with him felt. No rush, just shooting the breeze while we were there. Really casual in that respect, and I really liked it.

I like how they’ve changed the place up. I went once before and thought the food was just okay, the salsa bar all tasted like someone ashed in all of the salsas, and didn’t really think of going back. But $1 specials? I’m so there.

Any way, like I said – they’ve changed the place up a bit. It used to be a service counter with sneeze guards up (like Moe’s, Subway, etc build-it-yourself type places), but they’ve taken it down so now it’s a bar you can sit at. Really big improvement – makes the place feel a little less fast-casual and more like you can sit down and grab a drink.

I got a chicken and pork taco. Albany John got ground beef and pork. The chicken was meh – I think it’s just there as a nod to people who want chicken. Two dinky pieces of white meat chicken that tasted pretty bland. Bless, that was the first taco I ate, and the pulled pork taco made me almost fall out of my seat, it was so good. Moist, juicy, smoky, a little hint of a kick – you’ve got to try this pork. It was great.

The tacos come with lettuce, diced tomato, and shredded cheese. There’s some hot sauces (Cholula brand – really yummy!) at the tables. The meat fillings were on the sparse side (about a 1-2 tablespoons) but Albany John and I both though that for dollar tacos at a bar type place it wasn’t too bad. As they were, two were more snacky for me than meal-ish.

Fast forward to yesterday (man, doesn’t that sound like a hipster band or something?), Margarita called me up asking for a recommendation for a good place to get a burrito in the area because she was having pregnancy cravings.


She wasn’t quite sure where it was in Latham (2 Wade Road), so I told her I’d be down to go if she wanted to do dinner.

And as luck would have it, yesterday was the night they closed early for their holiday staff party. We’d just missed them by about 20 minutes. Ah well. Bro was like “Well, if you hadn’t decided to change your clothes three times…” to Margarita, but I think it just wasn’t in the cards (Margarita and I have already decided to head there this Saturday after a day of thrift shopping).

So then we were wondering where to go, and Albany John pipes “Badass! Badass Burrito. It’s also dollar beer and taco night!”.

So down!

So we went there and this time I got 2 pork and 1 beef tacos. Same fixings – lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese. And a PBR. Yum. Tacos! These tacos were very generously filled this time. I was very pleasantly surprised! The ground beef was moist, but not greasy. It was taco seasoned – sorry, that’s the best idea I can give you. Not plain ground beef. The pork tacos were juicy as ever and very tender – no bits of pork stuck in my teeth!

Albany John and bro went for one of each, and Margarita went for ground beef (and maybe chicken, but I think just ground beef). Bro and Albany John conquered on the pork being superior and the chicken being meh.

For round two I ordered one more beef and pork taco, but they brought me two pork tacos. Oh shucks! Tee hee. I polished the extra one off with ease. Albany John only had 5 tacos. HAHA! TACO CONSUMING WINNAR. These tacos also decided to be much more photogenic, too.

I totally bet you could have a taco-eating contest (thatswhatshesaid!)– I’ll bet 12 tacos are do-able. Oh, they also have an 8 lb burrito coming soon. Margarita and I are going to see who can eat more: Bro Vs. Albany John!

Albany John is also pretty much set to take up residence at Badass Burrito on Saturdays and Mondays for the dollar taco and beer specials.

Vegetarian Taco Night

Albany John whipped up a fantastic taco spread for dinner last night. I’m always so impressed with how quickly he can conjure up several delicious dishes.

It was a vegetarian meal. I’m usually partial to vegetarian tacos since I like the flavor of the sauces and I find the meat to be there more for texture than anything. I usually just load up on whatever the bean dish is, either whole or refried.
Gosh, do I ever love canned refried beans. Salty, mushy goodness. At certain points when I wouldn’t have Albany John’s cooking and had to fend for myself I’d just eat a can of refried beans and rice for a few meals. Maybe an egg or some other veggie, but you get the idea.

We had a box of vegetarian taco mix kicking around the pantry. I pick them up when I see them on super cheap sales. On its own, it’s a pretty bland and overly sweet mix of seasonings + TVP flakes. Albany John added some onions, black beans, fresh parsley (it was parsley, right?), and a bunch of seasonings to turn this mix from crap into tastiness. This box makes quite a bit of taco filling.

He also made a salad out of onions, purple cabbage, scallions, and cucumbers with some lemon juice, olive oil and red wine vinegar. It was just a little salad, and he thinks that if he had cut the ingredients up a little more finely, it would have passed as a salsa.

In addition to the tastiness he made, he’d also minced some raw onions, jalapenos, and cabbage to top our tacos with; plus put out some cheese, sour cream, salsa, and leftover rice. Quite the spread!

I contributed to dinner by making corn tortillas. I thought I hadn’t made enough for the three of us, but luckily I did. I also surprised Albany John by picking up an avocado at Save-A-Lot. Only $0.79! Slick contributed to dinner by doing the dishes, taking out the garbage, and organizing the recycling cans.

I like to eat my tacos de-constructed at home. I think it makes the meal last longer.

After dinner, I decided to make some more tortillas so I could save them and make tortilla chips at home the next day. They come out thicker, but they’re so tasty. Unfortunately, after pressing the first tortilla, I noticed a bumpy thing on it. Thinking it was maybe some errant pebble of dough, I picked at it and discovered it was some kind of wormy maggot bug. Awww, maaaaan. On one hand, it was nice that we didn’t find out about it until after we’d enjoyed our tortillas (so we could eat tortillas), but on the other hand, there’s a pretty good chance we ate tortillas with bugs in them. I wasn’t grossed out so much as annoyed that I hadn’t noticed it. Albany John and Slick were just like “Eh, it probably added some protien,”. So no tortilla chips since I didn’t feel like knowingly making bug-tillas.


Hola! My bro, sister-in-law, their roomie, and Ellsbells came over for Cinco de Mayo yesterday.
After a really long day, we were glad to have our family over to eat, drink, and generally be merry (though, the margaritas could have also helped in that department).
At the top left are some sweet vanilla-y plantain balls Albany John conjured up.
The middle row has: shredded chicken legs(metal bowl), corn tortillas, refried beans, seitan
Bottom= yellow shredded cheese, red cup of salsa, and white rice.
(And Ellsbells’ toes. Sorry dude, your toes were in like every other picture. Albany John can shoot pics w/o misc body parts. Me? Not so much)
The chicken was nice and cilantro-y. Yum! It’s all Albany John and his chicken chicanery. Chickenery, if you will. I am psyched for leftovers this week.
The tortillas took for freaking ever, but this time I had 2 pans going at once, which helped cut the cooking time down. Man, you should have seen Albany John, Ellsbells, and me dancing around eachother in the kitchen last night!
I think I’ve also decided that cheese is kind of unnecessary with Mexican food. I can never really taste it. However, refried beans are essential. If I can find a good enchilada sauce recipe, I am seeing chicken enchiladas for dinner tonight!

El Loco

We went to El Loco one night. I went once before to meet up with new friends, but don’t remember much about the meal except for it being ok, but more the chatting with new people thing.

I ordered one of their margaritas (rocks, no salt, TYVM!) for $6.50. These puppies really will knock you on your booty! They taste good, and it took me the whole meal to get through the entire drink.

You can choose a side with your meal, and since I was just getting over a cold the black bean soup sounded perfect. I really enjoyed the black bean soup. It was thick, well flavored, and the beans were nice and soft. Albany John’s black bean soups are more soupy and less thick than this, so we are thinking that some of the black beans were pureed. Hello, immersion stick blender!

I ordered a combo of fried things – a chicken chimichanga and … I think it was a turkey flauta. It’s the fried thing on the left with pinched ends in a corn tortilla. The chimi was in a flour based tortilla. I liked it – simple, cheesy and chicken-y. The flauta was deeply spiced and tasted hot to me, which probably means you will taste some seasoning. Still, the seasonings were great. My only problem was with how tiny they were. The chimichanga was 4, maybe 5 inches long tops. The flauta was a little smaller than that. And the first inch to half-inch or so was just tortilla, so I think they are a little pricey considering the portions and small amount of filling. Aww, I miss ordering enchiladas for $5 and getting 3-4 of them, slathered with sauce and plated on a paper boat like in Texas.
I loved the black beans and rice in a mini corn tortilla bowl. Lord, I love anything miniature. Maybe it’s just me though, but I would have preferred a little more rice and beans. Like, maybe put the black beans or the rice in the mini bowl, and then put the other one on the side. Yum!

Albany John ordered an enchilada and taco (I forget the fillings, whoops!) combo and ordered a blue cornbread muffin as his side. They are really big, and also quite good. Fluffy, warm and very easy to eat! Good, but I always want more than one enchilada. If the order came with 2 enchiladas and a taco, I would go here more often.

El Loco is vegan and vegetarian friendly as well, and they’re right next to Lark Tavern on Madison Ave. They’re a good place to meet up for margaritas and eat appetizers, and for the love of goodness, make sure you get either the cornbread or the black bean soup. Trust me, you’ll need something to nosh on while you’re slinging back those margaritas!
Oh, btw – their flavored margaritas are also really good. I definitely remember that from my first visit there.