I’m trying to search out more restaurants in Schenectady, so Albany John and I went dinner at Petta’s in Schenectady with Phairhead & Sexy Beast. Yay date night!
Don’t even ask me how many slices of bread I had. Ok, I had 6. Tasty stuff. The service was great – our waiter was friendly and knew his stuff. The decor itself is 50s recreation room. Kitchy.
Dinners come with salad or soup. I got the chicken soup to start, which was a bit heavy on the grease. Probably wouldn’t get it again.
Albany John went with a salad, which had comically large slices of celery, but was overall a nice starter salad because everything else was bite-sized.
For dinner I ordered the veal cutlet sorrentino. Great fry-job on the eggplant. The bottom was veal cutlet, and the top were thin eggplant slices. I wasn’t so crazy about the sauce – it was a little sharp for me and had some metallic finish going on. I got a side of linguine – s’okay.

Albany John got veal oreganata with a ton of sliced mushrooms. Loved those mushrooms. It was okay, too.
Sexy Beast got the prime rib – this was the SMALL 12 oz steak. GET THE STEAKS, GET THE STEAKS, GET THE STEAKS. This was perfectly cooked (med rare as requested) and so deliciously savory. Soft & buttery. The au jus was perfect – incredibly savory – not at all watery or weak. This was a beefy dish in every sense of the word. Phairhead and I stole Sexy Beast’s cast off fat bits (who throws those away?!)
Phairhead got the lasagna – I’m glad I didn’t. Fennel all up in that sausage! But good for a fennel lover.

I’m probably going to pass on the pasta dishes at Petta’s the next time I go, but I am ALL OVER that steak section!

Montreal NYE

I’m baaaaaack! I drove up to Montreal with three of my closest friends (and husbear) for New Year’s Eve in the hopes of avoiding the rowdiness that is Albany nightlife.

We got in with very little traffic on the 31st of December. Probably the shortest wait I’ve ever had at the border. We were in so early, we had enough time to get reservations at my Must-Eat restaurant – Nil Bleu.

Albany John and I split a combo platter for two. $34.95 for (clockwise from top): Beef in berbere sauce, yellow lentils, spicy chicken, and lamb with potatoes & carrots. So good! The lamb was lamb-y and good. A nice warm comforting stew with such richness.

The chicken had a kind of sriracha kind of spiciness to it (way less heat-spice, though), so I wasn’t crazy about it. But it was pretty good. The beef in berbere was really good, too. Quite flavorful, and a teeny bit spicy. I was really surprised with how much I really liked the yellow lentils. Lentils usually have this scratchy texture to them, but these went down so easily and didn’t bother me at all. I need to figure out how to make this.

The spongy injera bread that comes with it is lovely too, although I remember it being served warm before. We had a bunch of different servers, and one of them mentioned that they had no managers on duty that day and were kind of flying blind. Yikes. But they did a good job. Except that all of the wait staff were grabbing injera out of a bag with their bare hands in between bussing dirty dishes. Not the most sanitary of conditions, but this germaphobe was willing to overlook it (albeit kind of hard, since we were seated right next to the kitchen).

We wolfed this down in record time. I guess that’s what not eating Ethiopian food for 5-ish years will do to an appetite.

Mango Raspberry mousse cake. ~$7. So tasty. Kind of heavy for a mousse cake, but tasty as a dessert overall. Light, velvety, sweet, and a pinch tart.

My friends ordered some Ethiopian coffee, and I ordered an Ethiopian tea. The tea was pretty much like chai, but the coffee tasted like dirt. Maybe heavy on the chicory?

Then some dancing at Foufounes Electriques. $20 cover (inclusive of coat check), fairly non-packed and they had dollar beer specials until midnight. Worked quite nicely for me. Evidently Montreal isn’t that crazy on NYE, so this is a nice spot for me to head to.

A bit of rowdy fighting now and then handled fairly well by the large team of bouncers on duty. Some punk kids, some rock, some indie, some skaters, and a whole lotta plaid. Three stories, something for all of my tastes on all three.
The next morning Albany John went out to a grocery store and picked up some provisions to last our group through the rest of our trip. A fresh boule of bread. Their grocery store bread is so much better than our own in the states. Sigh.
Flax seed bread.
Eggs, juice, mushrooms, and spinach!
This will probably seem trivial to any Quebecois, but I love these trios of ground meat: veal, beef, and pork. The portions are perfect – about the size of a large ice cream scoop (or a handful) and the three meats complement each other to make meatballs, or just flavorful meat patties. Albany John made some bangin’ meatballs.
For breakfast he made a bangin’ omelette. Oozing with cheese and filled with fresh spinach greens. Nommy nom nom! I also came “out” to my new friends as Albany Jane. So yeah. That’s me. All anonymous and shiz.
Later on we went to a Hookah bar on St Denis. A lot of places were closed on New Year’s day.
We got a mix of apricot, pear, and honey shisha. Service here was very reeellaaaaxxxeeeddd. The staff were attentive if you flagged them down, and there was absolutely no rush to leave.
We got a corner big booth. It was nice, and you took your shoes off, but the cushions were all ripped and kind of dirty. Eh. At least there was no rush. We ended up spending about $40 for drinks and one head of shisha. Not bad for five people who were there for close to 2 hours.

I don’t normally like any kind of smoking, but flavored shisha doesn’t taste at all like tobacco, and the honey shisha was especially nice. The smoke is cool/not hot, so it doesn’t burn my throat. Nice little thing to indulge in during the new year.

I grabbed a Cote d’Or chocolate bar on the way out. It’s a truffle bar, and pretty tasty. Lot of filling to coating ratio.

Overall, a successful return to Montreal. The exchange rate is about even between USD & CAD, so things are no longer at a 20% discount like when I first began visiting. The culture hasn’t changed – there’s something about it that I really enjoy – laid back but vibrant, and filled with lots of good food.

Garden Bistro 24 for Family Dinner

Bro, Margarita, and Baby Dubs came up from Mississippi for a bit recently. It was so good to see them! Hard it believe it’s been almost a year since I last saw them!

I wanted to do something special while they were up here, and booked a dinner at Garden Bistro 24 for them, my mom, my sister, plus Albany John and me. Oh, and a toddler.

I emailed ahead of time to partially arrange a special meal for my sister, who’d said she’d eat cooked food. So I requested something vegan and gluten-free. Much to my surprise, John Grizzaffi himself responded! Who ever expects the chef and OWNER of a restaurant to answer your emails? (He’s a peach, btw).

They have old fashioneds!So yummy! So potent!

Albany John got a hangar steak. Yum! Cooked med rare. My mom got a steak too, but no sauce. Not sure if she really liked it, she said it was kind of tough. Ah well. I guess I should have considered the cuts a little more. My mom’s more of a prime rib gal. I was hoping she’d like GB24 because they do simple meals, but I guess I didn’t consider the cuts she usually likes.

I got a duck confit special. Came in an amaretto sauce (but not too sweet). Two legs! Woah man – so much food! Really tasty – can’t get enough of their mustard, either.

My sis-in-law Margarita got a Garden Bistro 24 salad with Chicken. She really liked this.

My brother got mussels with the coconut sauce on them. He was like “These are fucking DELICIOUS!” (only add more cursing and it’s all said in caps). If I hadn’t seen the duck special I would have deffo ordered up some mussels!

Here is the special dish John made for my sister. I don’t think she actually ate any of it, since she ordered a salad instead. I guess she decided to switch back to raw food ’cause she got a salad. It was beautiful, though, and full of ingredients I don’t normally see on BG24’s menu. Freshly grilled seasonal veggies, kalamata olives, and organic polenta. The rest of us picked at it – so flavorful. I don’t know, I just wanted to have something she could/would eat with the rest of us aside from her usual greens, but I guess I screwed that one up along the way. I ordered it any way, since I made such a big deal about special ordering it. At least she was nice enough to take it home in a doggy bag, tossing it, I’m guessing, out of my view.

John – thank you very much for the effort you put in this dish (and vegans, put a rezzie here!).

A pic of Albany John’s steak, the special vegan dish, the salad my sis got instead, and a pic of my mom’s frites, ’cause evidently I didn’t snap a pic of her steak.

Service was great (as usual) – really friendly service, and guess what? Kids are always welcome here!

All done!

I always like going here. I was hoping I’d pick a place everyone would like because I like it so much. You can enjoy the food yourself, but you can’t necessarily force others to like what you do too. Or hope really hard. But you can enjoy the company and let them distract you from bluer thoughts ’cause you’re so happy to be with the crazy family you have.

Hunh, and here I thought I just went here for a meal. Instead I come out with some kind of life lesson.

The Epicurean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jade Asian Restaurant for CNY 2011

I’m a firm believer that all whirlwind trips need a jolt of caffeine. When you score free bus tickets on MegaBus with their WIN200K seats code for a 2:30 departure in Albany and a 7 am departure in NYC the next day, yeah. I think caffeine just about does it.

We stopped off at a McDonald’s just past Woodbury Commons and I picked up some coffee. Say what you want about the golden arches, but when your only other option is Lavazza, Mickey D’s is top shelf by comparison.

Our bus driver was a hilarious Ralph-alike from the Honeymooners. It made for an enjoyable trip.

We made it over the river and through the woods to Flushing. Otherwise known as uptown on the 1, and all the way to the end on the 7 line on the subway.

We made it to Jade Asian Restaurant by about 7 pm. Not too shabby for a weekend. We had reservations for 7:30 and they seated us no problem. It got fairly full. Not 100% full, but almost. Jade Asian Restaurant is located just around the corner from the subway stop at 13628 39th Ave, Flushing, NY 11354.

I think Yeh-Yeh wanted to go back to his spot (Mellie’s), but my dad wanted to try some place new. I’m glad he did, because I did too. The inside of Jade Asian Restaurant was really nice – definitely a banquet hall. And we weren’t sat next to the bathrooms in a corner like we were at Mellie’s last year.

Red tablecloths, and cute chop sticks!

They had a limited menu they strongly recommended ordering off of. Which I thought was kind of different for a Chinese restaurant (because you can just be like “Okay, make me XYZ this style” and they will even if it’s not on the menu), and evidently so did the rest of my family because I think we just ordered a few dishes that weren’t on the limited set menus. I’m still a loser who can’t read or understand any Chinese, so I have no idea if we got some dishes from the set menu, or if we just ordered stuff that wasn’t at all on the menus.

My sister is back on the raw food diet again, and had like, 2-3 of these fruit plates. Believe it or not, being on a raw fruit/veggie diet is not very easy to accomodate at a Chinese restaurant. I know, you’re shocked, right?
My dad asked a bunch of times for a fruit platter, but they were really busy and kept saying they wouldn’t be able to do it, but then would manage to bring an occasional plate out. Weird, because we were willing to pay for a large fruit platter so my sister could eat with us. It was like when your Mom is like “No, you can’t go to camp. We don’t have enough money.”, and then wakes you up two weeks later going “Get up, you have to leave for camp. Now.”. Definitely pleasant surprises.

They ended up not charging us for any of the fruit plates, so that was really nice of ’em. It was just an interesting experience.

Appetizers! Cold jellyfish and Chinese ham. I usually don’t fall in love Chinese ham because it tastes like gelatinized rubber, but this was fucking awesome. Super hammy and smoky. Not fatty or gel-y. We ordered a 2nd one of these. That good.
The jelly fish was also good, but the ham was the star here.


This is not a dish for dieters, but one just about all of us at the table loved. Yeh-Yeh grabbed the head and relished it. All of those crunchy bone bits. My Dad’s awesome lady also enjoyed the heck out of it. So fishy. So fried. So crunchy. So gooood! How could I not like a dish that is a)FRIED, b)Seafood, and c)fried so that you can eat more parts of the seafood than if it were cooked any other way?
Seriously, the only part you can’t eat is the spine. The bones on top are like crunchy fish chip rinds.

In the foreground is gingery beef with Chinese broccoli. Lots of gingery flavor – really bright and light flavors going on.

In the background is a dish I need to figure out how to make at home – dried scallop covered snow pea tips. Dried scallops cooked until they’re mush with some other saucy kind of liquids. Plopped on top of lightly cooked pea tips. Yummy.

And in the foreground is crispy chicken. Very moist. Nice and crispy. Yeh-Yeh giggled and told Albany John and me “Mmmm. So good. So many chicken getting killed today. For New Year. Heeeh heeh heeh. Don’t tell your sister. Heeeh heeh heeh.”

And of course my sister looked over and was like “What?” and we were all “Oh, nothing. Yeh-Yeh really likes dinner.” And Yeh-Yeh was all smiley and “Yeeaaahhh. Really good. Heeh heeh heeh.” And then I think he told her about all the chickens getting freshly killed for CNY.

DUDE! I’ve never had this. It was veal short ribs. Like galbi short ribs, but made with VEAL. And cooked medium rare to medium.

SO FREAKING GOOD AND TENDER. They were lightly seasoned, but it wasn’t a soy-fest. They really let the tender flavor of the veal shine through. CVS and Maka were able to join us, and Maka loves a good serving of veal.

Pork chops. The fried and saucy kind. Kind of like what we had at Ala Shanghai for Chinese New Year dinner with the Upstate crew, but… not as good. The meat was a little chewy for the large pieces, and the batter quickly became soggy underneath the sauce. Didn’t stay crisp like Ala’s.

In a way, though, this dish made me happy. Albany John and I looked at each other while eating it, and I was like “It’s good… but it’s not like Ala Shanghai’s pork chops.” and Albany John agreed. I was happy because it means that Albany’s Chinese food scene is not only getting diverse, but isn’t playing second fiddle to NYC Chinese cuisine. Not every dish at every restaurant in NYC or Albany is going to be perfect, but it seems like the rates of dish success are on par.

Resto-made noodles and fried rice. The noodles were good to accompany other dishes and absorb their flavors/sauces. The noodles were nice and tender, and there were plenty of them. At first I thought they were kind of bland, but they were really good eaten with other foods.

I thought the fried rice was okay. A little dry for me, and there were cranberries in it. Plus some shrimp and scallop bits. It was okay, but I’m not a big fan of rice any way, so it kind of takes a lot to make me flip over rice dishes.

Then it was time for dessert! Red bean tapioca dessert with a mochi dumpling.
Dinner was about $200 for 8 people. My cousin was also supposed to come, but sadly she wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t make it. Next year! haha
Yeh-Yeh and my Dad were nice enough to give Albany John and me some laisee (lucky money envelopes). Technically we aren’t supposed to get it because we’re married. But we’re still younger, so I guess that’s why. I didn’t run in to any other little kids, so I just gave my sister one of mine.

We ended up spending the night at my Yeh-Yeh’s place. My dad brought an air mattress that he let the Mr and me use, my sister slept on a fold-out couch, and my dad took a little mattress. We were all having a sleep over in the living room. It was fun. We used Albany John’s iThing to skype with my bro. Yeh-Yeh loves seeing his great grandson.

The next morning we woke up early to leave from Flushing to the lower west side of Manhattan. I am normally a neurotic planner, but I let my sister do a little bit of the time management and… well… I might still be a little neurotic about planning. We left later than I wanted to and took the 6 am train out of Flushing. If you know the city, you know that there is no way to make it to the lower west side from Flushing on a Sunday schedule in 45 minutes. So we used my trick from the last time I almost missed a bus back to Albany – get out somewhere in Manhattan and beg taxis to take you a short distance because you need to be somewhere NOW. Definitely works. But there aren’t that many taxis on the road at 6:30 AM, and everyone that drives one wants to take someone to the airport, not 12 blocks south west. I managed to pull puppy dog eyes and begging hands on an off duty cabbie who was nice enough to give us a ride.
We made it back to Albany safe and sound, and many an espresso was had once I got in the house. Gung hey fat choy!

Via Fresca & The Ruck – A Day of Tasty Things

I met up with Daniel B. for lunch at Via Fresca the other day. I was having one of those days where I just could not get full and was perma-hungry, so I was all “DAAAAN! LUUUUNNNCCHH! PAAHHHLEEAASSEEE!”. He kindly obliged, and you can see him checking in on Yelp or AoA or somesuch like that.

We split a meatball sub and a broccoli rabe & provalone panini. He declared the meatballs the best he’s had in Albany. They were veal (ahh, love!) and very tender. Not the least bit dense. Slathered in a good amount of sauce and mozzarella cheese. Even the sub was nicely toasted.

The broccoli rabe panini was not my favorite out of all of their paninis, but Dan also declared a fondness for it as well. Don’t get me wrong, it was perfectly executed, but oh man how can a plain ol’ veggie panini compare to their meatier and heftier ones? (Geeze, can you tell I was in eat-like-a-monster mode?)

I love, love, love their breads. Always so fresh, with just the right amount of soft innard and crusty exterior. It kills me when people in Guilderland pass up Via Fresca for subs. Usually, they think it’s too “fancy”, but I try to convince them that it’s okay, yes, “fancy” if you mean “good ingredients, but price-wise, it’s not bad either. They’re around $7.50 for most sandwiches, and the size of my freaking arm.

Mini cannoli are $1.55 each. I had two and could have probably eaten an entire sleeve more. So creamy and good, and cannoli are filled to order. Love it.
Lunch would have been somewhere in the $20 range, but I had an Entertainment coupon to use up ($7 off, yeah!), so it was only around $13 total for us.

Monday and Wednesday nights at The Ruck are wing nights. And by golly, nothing follows a lunch at Via Fresca like wings at The Ruck for dinner. $0.40 wings, or $4 orders of 10 wings that usually cost $7. Almost half-price! And the drink prices aren’t bad either. Happy hour runs 5-7, and then Wing Night starts following happy hour.

It was busy when we went, because who can resist the call of cheap, delicious wings? An order each of BBQ and medium. The medium wings still have a good amount of kick to them, but I managed to make my way through a good amount of them.
I can definitely see the allure of medium AND BBQ sauce on a wing together.

And guess what? I think I came close to eating 10 whole wings! I love wings, but I tend to bitch out pretty early and get full when I order them out. But Albany John loves it because he knows that if I get wings, it means he gets wings, too.

I can’t put my tastebuds just on it, but their house-made blue cheese dressing has some non-traditional seasonings in it. Or maybe lots of mayo. At times it tastes vaguely like there’s a hint of Ranch dressing in there. I don’t know. I’m a ranch-hater, so whenver I think I taste ranch in it, I’ll just focus on the blue.

Dinner @ SCCC’s Casola Dining Room – Spain & Portugal

Went to SCCC a bit ago for dinner with my girl Phairhead & Sexybeast, Daniel B, Albany John, and Panda. Rezzies at 7:30, and Sue, SB, and Dan were already waiting for us!

Panda kind-of-sort-of knew someone who he planned on saying hi to over the course of dinner at SCCC who ended up walking in and sitting down. SCCC only allows 6 reservations per table and no one else knew he was planning on walking in and joining us, but the management team were very polite and let him stay.

I’ll be blunt – the experience this time was not as great as last time. Food wasn’t as good, and the service was really spotty. Still, a good experience overall, but not as awesome as the first.

We got the Spain & Portugal menu. Here’s Albany John’s soup – Olla Podrida. Dan also got this soup. I tried a bit and it was okay, but the flavors were kind of weak and flat. It could have used more flavor from the pork components (ham & chorizo) and less garbanzo beans. There were a lot of garbanzo beans.

I got the tapas sampler appetizer. The shrimp were supposedly in some garlic sauce. I didn’t taste much garlic – mainly paprika. The shrimp themselves were overcooked, tough, and mealy.

The olives were a pleasant surprise. The green ones looked like they were popped just out of a jar (pimento strips and all), and the kalamatas looked mushy, but they were both pleasantly brine-y.

Bunuelos de Chorizo are the poofy fritters you can kind of see to the right and had zero chorizo flavor. I saw teeny bits of them, but basically it was fried dough with pretty red bits on the inside. It was well fried, but if it’s called a chorizo fritter it should have more chorizo in them.

And finally marcona almonds were pleasantly warm and crunchy, but definitely could have benefited from the addition of some salt. Not much flavor though – more of a texture thing than anything else.

I think SexyBeast really hit the winner with his empanadas. They were tiny, but man they looked good.

Our meals took a long time to come out, and I was wondering if Panda’s guest was ever going to leave. It was weird. He didn’t order anything, and then Panda didn’t eat anything, so it was like sharing a table with two people on a date. I know it wasn’t expected that this guy would come in and sit with us for the entire dinner, but a “Hey, I’m going to enjoy dinner with friends, I’ll call you when I’m done,” wouldn’t have hurt. So I’m not sure if they took so long because the good folks at SCCC were pissed with us (which I really doubt), or because we ordered paella.

Like minds think alike, and Dan and Albany John both ordered the Valencian Style Paella. I didn’t like this dish. The rice was why I don’t like rice – gummy and bland, and none of the other food really stuck out. It was kind of like bad fried rice. It was also HUGE.

However, Phairhead & I hit gold with the veal chop. A gigantic chop with a delicious sear on the outside and cooked to a nice medium, medium-rare on the inside.

The blue cheese sauce was a perfect match for the chop. I loved it. Definitely a stand out dish. The meat was very, very tender as well.

The menu listed “wrinkled potatoes”, but these were just some fingerling potatoes cut in half. The mixed veggie ball on there was mostly red bell pepper and onion. You know how much I love bell peppers, so I nixed that one. The potatoes could have used a little something to season them – they were just boiled, halved potatoes. Maybe some sauce over them, too?

Check that center. Our waiter didn’t ask us how we wanted it, so I was wondering how it would turn out. Nice.
SexyBeast’s monkfish serving was 3 small circles of fish. I’m glad I didn’t order it – not enough food for me! In comparison to the massive serving of paella it looked down right tiny! But he said it was really good.

Our waiter was also… really casual in comparison to the service we had the last time. A lot of “You guys”, and seat touching/leaning. Maybe he’d waited tables at The Outback or some other corporate chain since he wasn’t nervous, but it was oddly informal given the types of meals and setting of the restaurant/school.

We also couldn’t figure how the logic behind his order taking – ladies first (okay, good there), and then he’d sporadically pick one of the guys to order.

He also kept asking us if we needed anything else, like water. Just from a service point of view – keep the waters refilled. That one I really don’t get. At the end of service, maybe, but not during appetizers.

The person in the manager role for the night also kept clearing all of our silverware. That made no sense and was a real hassel. After our appetizers, she helped our waiter clear the table and took all of the steak knives from everyone. Then when dinner came out, our server said the knives were all getting washed and it would be a few minutes. The “manager” also came over to check if we needed anything and didn’t acknowledge that she was the one that took our knives and also said it would be a few minutes. Maybe she was pissed because of the extra person at the table? This was annoying though, because then Phairhead and I couldn’t eat our veal chops until the knives came out. And they looked so good!

I had a cup of chamomile tea with dessert. I’ll admit it – I obey the rules, and when a they say they can only accomodate 6 people at a time… well, I was stressed at that point because I felt like I was being rude to SCCC. And hoping they wouldn’t blackball me from any future dinners (“Oh, that’s the lady that had too many people. … Sorry, we’re full.”).

Hopefully they saw it as a learning experience, and we didn’t throw a wrench in the gears too badly. I know it wasn’t ideal for them, and I appreciate their graciousness.

I had the dulce de leche ice cream with anise wafer cookie for dessert. The ice cream itself was great, except once again we ran into the no-silverware problem. We had to mention this to our server, who got us silverware. Still, who clears *everything* off of the table? Just take what’s on the plate. It makes no sense to clean the clean silverware.

I loved the ice cream – a nice and deep dulce de leche flavor. The cookie though… blek – I don’t like anise, and this was like a black licorice cookie. Dan said it was good, though, but more a cracker than a cookie. Savory instead of sweet.

So that was my interesting dinner at SCCC. Sometimes things happen that aren’t in your control with dinner, and you have to roll with the punches. Some dishes better than others. Still super psyched that I got to hang out with two of the area’s finest bloggers – you guys are always a treat to hang out with!

At $22 per person (tax and tip included), dinner is definitely worth a look-see.


Fresh pasta and ragu time! Blogger decided to get picky about posting pictures, but I think you’ll get the idea.

First is the onion/garlic stage, where you cook them up before doing anything else. I also tossed in some minced shallots when the onions were nearing cooking completion before adding the garlic.

I chucked in some meatloaf mix ground meat with the onions. I got this at Roma Importing in Latham, NY. They have a special, where if you buy 3 or more pounds, it is only $2.99/lb. They have hormone and antibiotic free meat, so this is a good deal.

And when you cook it up, it smells fantastic. This meatloaf mix is made from a mix of pork, beef, and veal. Much better than just one of them.

Not pictured is adding milk to the meat after it has browned/cooked all of the way through. I’ve heard tell that it adds to the meat’s tenderness.

While the milk is being cooked into the meat, pop open a bottle of red wine. Sistah gave this to Albany John and me as a Christmas present. It is a bottle of The Show cabernet sauvignon. She had a whole bunch of wines to choose from, and let me have my pick. Naturally, I was drawn to the one with the brightest label and coolest font.

Pop it open and start chugging!
Oops, wait. Save a bit. Then start chugging.

Add the wine to the ground meat once the milk is absorbed. This is my favorite step – the mixture smells FABULOUS. My kitchen was already meaty, but the wine cooking into it just added another level of richness. You only need a little bit of wine. It just adds flavor. Too much ruins the dish and overwhelms everything.

I really liked cabernet sauvignon. I should remember to use it again for a red cooking wine. Not too sweet, and not too dry to cook with. Drink-wise, I let Albany John have at it. It was a wee bit too dry for me.

Then once the wine’s cooked off you can finally add your tomatoes. I got a large can of whole tomatoes with basil from Cardona’s Market for $5.99. I think it was 108 ounces. I squished each tomato with my hands, and then added the rest of the liquid. And a bit of water. And the dry herbs to season it up a bit.

I usually use crushed tomatoes, so this sauce was a little thinner than I am used to, but I like it. The other creations I’ve made of ragu sauce were so thick.

Oh, and while it was simmering away (I mean, you do cook bolognese sauce for at least 2 hours), I made fresh pasta with semolina flour. I used entirely semolina flour and found it added a nice chew / bite. Much less mushy than AP flour. AP flour noodles seem more like goulash and suited to Western European cooking than Italian dishes.

Semolina all the way, baby. I like 1.5 C semolina flour, 2 large eggs, bit of olive oil, dash of salt, and water to combine. Let it sit 20 minutes and then you can start rolling it out. I rolled mine out to level 5 (pretty thick) and cut out chunky pappardalle noodles by hand.

Fresh pasta cooks up really quickly – normally it’s only 3 minutes or so, but since these were thick and fat noodles, they were about 6 minutes to cook. I plunged them in ice water and then topped them with piping hot bolognese sauce. And some bowls got slatherings of fresh pecorino romano (also from Cardona’s, at $9.98/lb)

This was a pretty good recipe! I estimate it cost about $12-13 for the entire pot. $1 more for the fresh pasta.

I don’t remember exactly how much meat I used, but if I am being generous, I would say 1.75 lbs. So $5.24 for the meat. $5.99 for the gigantic tub of tomatoes. Herbs are negligible since I’ve always got them in the pantry.

This Incarnation’s Ragu Recipe:

5 yellow onions, diced
6 shallots, diced
1 whole head garlic, pressed
olive oil
1.5-2 # ground beef, pork, and veal mix
¾ C milk
½ C cabernet sauvignon
1 large can of whole tomatoes (108 oz) canned with basil

Dried parsely, marjoram, oregano, basil, salt

Heat olive oil over low heat in pan. Add diced onions and cook until almost translucent. Add shallots, cook until both are translucent.

Add garlic. Cook until fragrant (just a few minutes).

Add ground meat and turn heat up to medium/high to brown.

Add milk and reduce heat to low, so the milk is at a simmer. Stir occasionally until milk is absorbed by the ground meat.

Add wine. Stir occasionally until the ground meat absorbs it, too.

Add tomatoes – squish and crush the whole tomatoes by hand into the pot, and pour all the liquids in once finished. Add a little bit of water to the can to get all the tomato out, and pour that into the pot as well.

Add dried herbs and salt to pot. Stir to combine.

Once everything barely comes to a simmer, leave it to cook on low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring every 20 minutes.