Trust me, it’s Gnocchi

So yea, I’m not doing so well in the ‘focus’ department on my new/old camera. But just trust me that I got a rockin’ recipe from Elise, and then added shrimp, tomato sauce and a weeeee bit of butter and basil to the mix.

It’s frickin’ fantabulous, and Elise’s recipe is easy and yields delicious results.

Garden Tomato

Ah, les tomates. No, scratch that. Actually, it’s la tomate. They’re slowly ripening (and threatening to take over the lawn… whoops. Sorry, sorry!). And I found a nice big un’!

Nope, it’s not an under ripe tomato either – I just bought a ton of yellow tomatoes. When we were starting the garden, that is. At this point, I am staunchly not buying tomatoes because I KNOW. I just KNOW. That these plants will start ripening. SOON. I have a plethora of green tomatoes. JUST RIPEN ALREADY. This big one was so nice, fat and firm. I sliced it thinly and layered it with thin slices of avocado, mozzarella and basil (also from the garden) and sprinkled it lightly with some balsamic vinegar. The cheese was unnecessary, but everything worked so well together. The tomato even tasted sunny!

Now ripen, you lot! Albany Jane needs her tomato gorgings!

Oh, and my peeeecchar? You like? I got a new camera! It’s actually from my neighbors – they gave it to Albany John, and he gave it to me. They rock! Now I can take pictures again! I have to find a book online or something since I can’t get it to focus that well. I never knew how much I took pictures until now. It’s nothing intrusive or long lasting, but I’ve noticed how often I say “Oh! Let me get a picture of that [food/person/funny thing]!”. I think I will have to take them out to dinner, or have them over, or do something nice for them, because this rocks and I’m not going any where near Albany John’s camera – it is way too high tech for me.

Sir, may I offer you a cheese plate?

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this, but I love impromptu events. One of our friends called us to hang out yesterday around 6. We were in the liquor store getting some vino, and I told him to come on over.
I’d plopped some food in the crock-pot, so it would be done later that night. Until then – CHEESE PLATE!

Albany John was calling me a good little hostess for whipping up a cheese plate and keeping it refreshed (hey, what can I say? We all like eating!).

The easy part was having a few cheeses in the fridge. We had a sharp cheddar from Hannaford, which was no biggie, but I really like the store brand better than the HelluvaGood or other brand names. This just tastes sharper, and as a plus, it’s also cheaper. I’d also grabbed a tasty mascarpone pesto torta from the co-op a while back and put it in there. That’s the blobby looking cheese with green streaks. It’s really good – get it! And then there was my beloved Belltoile brie I’d snagged at Trader Joe’s for $7.99/lb!

In addition to this trio of cheeses, there were kalamata olives, freshly picked blueberries, peanuts…

And a separate plate of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate Roasted Pistachio Toffee and mini vanilla meringues that really tasted like Lucky Charms cereal marshmallows. They’re okay, but boy do they taste like old marshmallows. The pistachio covered toffee is something that makes me thankful we do not have a Trader Joe’s nearby, otherwise I could see myself stopping in just as often as I am in Hannaford and buying pistachio coated happiness every time I go. It is amazing.

Dinner with Friends & Crisan Bakery Again

Normally I am duly unprepared for any event. Are we just going out for a casual dinner? I’ll probably put on a cocktail dress, heels and costume jewelry. I like getting dressed up to go out. I’ve learned that the servers at Houlihan’s or Olive Garden will look at you like you’re crazy, and that you’ll get compliments a-plenty at the Lark Tavern.

However, invite me over for dinner, and you’re lucky if I remember to bring anything over. I’ll remember halfway there that you wanted some wine, a bag of peanuts, or for me to pick someone up.

But this time – I was prepared! I met up with a friend randomly and he invited me over to his place for dinner. Sweet. But he wasn’t cooking. Oh, no no no.

My other friend was cooking. He made a carrot & garlic scape stir-fry (the orange stuff), and a tofu & spinach dish that was to die for. And it was really easy too!
Fresh tofu (this is the key, it tastes almost like cheese, which was so unexpected, but very welcomed), spinach, a pinch of oyster sauce and some soy sauce. Drizzle with sesame oil. I also tossed in some garlic and ginger when I made it the other night. Make it, try it, love it. It’s actually quite a vegetarian friendly recipe too (or vegan). My friend used vegetarian oyster sauce.

But after we were done, they realized that they had no dessert. AH HA!!! I was walking Lark Street and had been pulled into Crisan Bakery when I walked past and couldn’t resist buying a few lovely pastries. I spent a total of $6 on everything. So cheap! But this is where the little hamster in my brain started sprinting a mile a minute in it’s little wheel and I nearly shouted “I HAVE PASTRIES FROM CRISAN BAKERY!! WANNA TRY THEM OUT WITH ME?”. Woo hoo! Inadvertent preparedness. There must have been some lucky alignment that made me buy all these pastries.

And so, we sampled.

The Crème. Heavenly light, airy, cream and custard whipped and placed lovingly between two layers of flaky pastry. The crème was about 2.5 inches of solid custard and cream, to give you an idea of how it is shaped, because sometimes pictures aren’t enough. You should also be in good company when you eat this, because I kept splodging creamy bits around with my fork.
I think a crème would be a perfect first date food if you’re not sure about someone. Go get one (or split one) with your guy or gal, sit on the cute blue patio tables at Crisan Bakery, and chit chat and eat. If they freak out about any messiness, well, at least you’ve got a pastry. If they dig in and end up a bit messy themselves, why not make it a second date?
If you can’t tell – the general consensus between the three of us was that the crème was amazing.

On top are phyllo puffs filled with feta cheese. Yum! They were 60 cents apiece, and wonderful little nibbles. The feta was very mellow after being baked in phyllo – it was just a tiny bit tangy, but very creamy. Even if you don’t normally like feta, I urge you to try them.

On the bottom left is a plain croissant. It was very light – Crisan Bakery is excellent at creating soft, light and airy pastries of all sorts. I am convinced of this. I still prefer Mrs. London’s croissants over these because they have more of a crunch to their outside, but Crisan’s is my second favorite croissant in the Capital District. The outside was soft, as were the insides. It was kind of like eating just the insides of a croissant. Very moist and very satisfying, I would buy this again.

On the right is a pumpkin pie slice. Well, it might not have been pie, but basically that’s what it tasted like, only much lighter. What was very surprising was that there were shredded pieces of pumpkin in the filling, not your usual mush of pumpkin puree. It wasn’t too sweet either, which was quite nice. I can really see all of Crisan’s pastries being very good with coffee. They don’t taste too sweet, and really strike a balance between sweetness, lightness and overall tastiness.

Our group’s consensus – We love Crisan Bakery!

Here is my take on my friend’s awesome tofu and spinach. Try it. It’s so good.

N’s Tofu and Spinach (as made by Albany Jane):

Fresh Tofu (found in the bin)
Frozen Spinach, squeezed dry
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½” ginger, minced
1 T Oyster Sauce
2 T Soy Sauce
½ – 1 t rice wine vinegar
2 T Sesame Oil
Oil for cooking.

Put pan on high (I used a wok), add oil.

Toss in ginger and garlic; think to self “Bam!”

Grab tofu and squeeze it up, throw in hot wok and break it apart until it is crumbly. Let it cook for a few minutes by itself.

Add squeezed spinach.

Add Oyster sauce, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar.

Stir up a bit until it looks like it’s all come together.

Drizzle with sesame oil, mix.

You’re all done – eat and enjoy!

Holy crap, random family weekend!

When did we get so busy? Well, maybe you aren’t busy, but personally, I feel like I’ve never been busier.

My weekdays are filled with tons-o-schtuff. And then the weekends come, and there is usually something planned too. Fun stuff, usually (or overlap from the week, worst case scenario), but sometimes it’s just nice to not have anything at all planned, you know?

But crap. Now. Now. Now. Now. A million and one things to do and that need doing. Lately I haven’t even really been enjoying eating, even though I do like baking and my products. It kind of feels like I’ve just been going through the motions, you know? Even with food, which kind of makes me sad, but like I said. I’ve kind of clocked out a bit.

So an impromptu weekend was quite nice. Rejuvenating, even. And when I say impromptu, I mean it. This trip happened literally on the drive home from Mrs. London’s. I felt kind of bad planning a trip on my mum’s birthday, but it was all for my sister and I was going to be the tour guide so she wouldn’t get lost on the bus ride down (and no, she is not 8, but we’re kind of sheltered sometimes). At that point I realized – woahfamilyweekend! First mom, then dad. Crazy! And my mom was having a party later that night, so I figured at the very least she’d have some time to herself and friends. My sister and I had to travel down to see our dad and family in NYC. We took a late bus down ( rocks) and promptly got soaked. But we made excellent time on the subway and were at my family’s place by 9:30.

I got a huge platter of sushi from my Yeh-Yeh (Chinese grandfather) and Uncle. And I mean, a huge platter. I ate just about all of it with my Dad helping out with half a dozen or so pieces. He had just come back from dinner with his girlfriend. I have no clue why, but that just made me feel so related to him. Dinner, and then sushi. Haha.

If you ever grew up feeling awkward around all of your non-nuclear relatives, trust me, once you hit your mid 20s, you will probably develop a “fuck it, we’re family” mode. Eat with gusto and enjoy them while they’re there (both the family and the eats). I also felt the same way with my Mom’s birthday brunch. Sometimes you just need to clock out and realize how lucky you are to have crazy family members to have special meals with. I can guarantee you that they think you are just as crazy, if not crazier. Especially if you have more pictures of food on your camera than people. By a wide margin. So, in the spirit of enjoying family, friends and general joie de vivre, I hardly focused my photos and just took snaps. They are probably blurry as heck, but I had such a great time.

My sister was awesome and ate avocado sushi rolls, since I mentioned she was vegan and couldn’t eat 99% of what my family would have tried to feed her if I hadn’t told them. My conversation with Pops went like this:
Dad: “Ok, so we’ll have dinner when you get here. What do you want us to get for you? Sushi?”
Me: “OhGODYES. Sushi. *drool* Oh, but yea, the sissykins is vegan now. She doesn’t eat animals or animal products.”
Dad: “… what? Hmm. Okay. Well… She can still eat pizza, right? We’ll just get her a plain cheese –“
Me: “Dad, Dad, no. Vegan means she can’t eat dairy, eggs… if it came from an animal she isn’t gonna eat it.”
Dad: “OH… what the heck are we gonna feed that girl?”
Eventually we settled on avocado rolls as a safe idea. Rice + cucumber +avocado + wrapper (oh I will feel terrible if we later find out they rubbed these with tuna belly or something), and thankfully they were inside out rolls, which I think look less intimidating. The sister was a bit iffy about the whole thing, but when your older sister is the human garbage disposal, excess avocado rolls aren’t really a concern. But once she tried them, she ate some, which I’m guessing means she thought they were good.

Although, I need to point out, sushi is eaten in one bite – people, please back me up on this in comments. My sister insisted on being “dainty” and eating her rolls in two bites. And the pieces weren’t even that big! Come ON! (I’m kidding, kind of; y’all know how obnoxious I get around sushi). But no, she rocks for eating almost half of that. I wonder if she was still hungry after that. It didn’t seem like a lot of sushi to eat, but many of my vegan and vegetarian friends don’t eat as much as I do. They seem to fill up faster.

I kid you not – this is how much sushi I ate. My dad helped out with half a dozen or so pieces. Please compare with the first picture. Even I was impressed/shocked with how much sushi I ate. Seriously. Wow. I knew I liked sushi, but jeeze. My uncle and Yeh-Yeh said they ordered a platter for themselves and split it. And had a ton left over. At that I rubbed my Buddha belly and dipped another piece of delicious sushi in soy sauce.

Where did they get this sushi? I can’t remember the name, but it’s a little place right around the corner from them on the subway line. They’re incredibly affordable and very fresh. This was a nice assortment of salmon (sake), tuna, eel, squid (not my fave as sushi), yellow tail, octopus, shrimp, California rolls and a spicy tuna or salmon roll.

We settled off to bed shortly after eating, since it was getting late. The next day we got up, made ourselves ready, and headed out to eat at one of Flushing Chinatown’s vegetarian/vegan restaurants. My dad knew of one, so we hopped in the car. My family really prefers the Flushing Chinatown because parking is a bit easier to find, and is much cheaper. And, ye know, they live in Queens, so it’s one less bridge to cross and a heckuva lot less traffic.

So we drove around and we hit up Buddha Bodai. It had all of 5 spaces, and they were all full. But luckily we found parking nearby-ish by the Flushing Gardens.
Buddha Bodai is renown for having kosher, vegetarian food. It seems a lot of their foods are also vegan. My dad and the waitress were talking for a long time in Chinese about making the dishes vegan, and everything turned out A-OK.

Oh. My. Gosh. These were hands down the freshest and best rice rolls I have ever eaten in my life. They were silky smooth; the sauce was perfect the perfect mix of sweet and salty. It makes me that much sadder to look at them now that I’m back in Albany, NY and know I cannot get these here. We just have the ones that come cooked, refrigerated and in baggies up here. They’re nowhere near as good. The ones in the restaurants just don’t taste as good either. I don’t know if I can say enough how heavenly these rice rolls were. Simple, delicious, and they made me happy.

Then there were some fat noodles with veggies in them. The noodles were quite chewy and good.

Of course, I saw shrimp rice rolls on the menu (har cheung)and HAD to try them. And of course, they were the only flop out of everything we ordered. Oh well. The family thought they tasted like imitation crabmeat, and were just a little flat, flavor wise. But those rice wrappers were so fresh and tasty!

This was a faux chicken dish over veggies. I think it was like Chicken and Oyster sauce. The chicken flavor and texture was dead on! I just took a bite since my sister really loved chicken with oyster sauce when she was a non-vegan.

My sister totally took on a valley girl accent when we were talking about tofu. I have no idea why. It was funny. “ooooh, yaaahhh. I looove tofu. Like, frrrriiiieeeddd.” These were nice, too. I’d have preferred a sauce or something over them, but I used a black bean sauce on the side of our table as a condiment. They were incredibly soft and pillowy in the center.

This has got to be the star of the meal. A mixed appetizer platter of fake meats – roasted pork and char siu. The char siu was dead on – you could fool meat eaters with it, no joke. This was the first dish to come out, and really set the tone for the rest of the meal (the tone being – holy crap, this is good food). The roast pork was pretty good, but that char siu. My sister even got a tin of it to take home with her and eat later.

I really liked this! It tasted just like a deep fried flaky thing, stuffed with vegetables. The outside was light and flaky, and the inside was moist and just had a nice light flavor.

It was really nice to go to a different place than we normally would have. Normally we go to one of a few restaurants my Yeh-Yeh really likes, and it entails seafood, pork, and more seafood. I do love my seafood, but I felt like I ate a lot here but was much less full/clogged up with meat, if that makes any sense.

After that meal, we hung out with the family a bit, and then hopped on the subway to get to Manhattan Chinatown (har har, as opposed to Flushing Chinatown) to catch the bus heading back to good ole Albany. After walking for a bit, I decided I’d grab a bubble tea, since I am quickly becoming addicted to them. I grabbed a black sesame bubble tea at a trendy little shop and wow, did I stick out like a sore thumb – hair all mussed, towering over everyone, and with a backpack strapped on me. Like I’ve said, awkward. But the bubble tea was amazing and really refreshing. Black sesame is the way to go. This picture is what I took at home. I love bubble teas, but it still takes me forever and a day to finish caffeinated beverages.

PEKING DUCK! I got a half duck, since no trip to NYC is complete for me unless I have a small roasted animal in my luggage. Turns out wherever we got one from (we went to the closest shop by the bus station, which was still a few blocks away) was one of the best places to buy a Peking duck, according to my Yeh-Yeh. It was moist, with just the right amount of fat (sometimes they can be way too fatty) and a nice crisp skin.

And because I’m a glutton, roasted crispy skinned pork. I think Albany John and I chowed down on this entire thing once I came back.
And a tiny egg custard dan tat. I used to love dan tats when I was a kid. This was okay, but the pastry was too heavy and bread-like. Good dan tats should have a super flaky crust. Extra points are earned for dan tats in miniature.

CDFI Potluck

Ok, so I’m blaming Albany John for the craptacular “spread” we brought to the CDFI potluck this past Friday. He’s usually so good at remembering these things, and told me early in the afternoon about it. So we had no time to make anything. I have some pot stickers I made in the freezer, but they had lap chong in them, and the majority of people who potluck at the CDFI are vegetarian or vegan, so not too many of them would get eaten.

Instead, we brought sangria and buffalo wing flavored pretzel bits. OH THE HUMANITY!!!! If we couldn’t wow them with our cooking skills, we could at least get them drunk enough to think the buffalo wing pretzel bits were awesome. HAHA – FAIL!

But luckily, other people were much more creative and thoughtful than us.

There was a donation by Aashiana – a sliced beef over yellow rice dish with a yogurt sauce. Excellent – I ate way more than my fair share.

The red headed stepchild of the potluck – sangria. You can see the buffalo pretzels trying to hide in shame behind it. Tisk, tisk.

Sweet potato soup – although I didn’t know it was soup and just ladled it over my yellow rice like a gravy. It was so tasty! You can get me to eat anything if you call it gravy.

Sweet potato salad – mmm! I normally don’t like celery at all, but this magical combination of ingredients yielded a very tasty result.

Sprouted lentil salad – it was so light and refreshing for the nice weather we’ve been having.

Key Lime Pie!!! This tasted amazingly fresh and creamy. And it was vegan! A big thanks to a certain local performance artist. I have to get her recipe. Seriously. It was kind of warm, had just the right amount of tartness to it… oh you had to have been there – it was so totally good. I actually flexed some self control and limited myself to one slice. This baby was gone pretty shortly after!

Of Tulips and Sushi

I swear, I have had enough meat to last me a lifetime.

Tulip fest, why?

In sum:
$5 crappy ‘lemonade’ (sugar, plus 2 pieces of lemon. Ick. But better doctored with some spirits)
$5 bratwurst with onions and sauerkraut – good buy, nice bite to the casing.
$7 bag of Adirondack Kettle Corn that was over half of my height: always good, especially when fresh out of the popper. I may have eaten melted plastic coated popcorn kernels, but it’s all good.

I am very glad I ran into someone who helped Albany John and myself out with said enormous baggie of kettle corn. Dear god, I still ate half of it.

Black and White Years were an awesome band, and the Spin Doctors sounded great too. We chatted with the cutest couple during the Spin Doctors – it was nice to be around other people who were happy and just enjoying themselves.

My sombrero provided my pasty butt much needed shade; otherwise I’d probably be a lobster right about now, despite slathering myself in sunscreen.

Now that, maybe, was a lot to eat, but after drinking a gigantic spiked lemonade (hello, that’s half of the fun of fest-ing), more food sounded better. Albany John managed to wrangle me into… dun dun dun – SUSHI HOUSE.

Sushi House?! I have had issues with Sushi House’s quality, fish-wise. I have had orders of sushi come out two different colors (and we weren’t talking Rainbow roll, either). But after an afternoon of spiked lemonade, well, I am pretty malleable. I ordered ika massago($5.50), basically, battered and fried squid with massago on top – a bit greasy, but good. I also got the soft shell crab($6.50), which was also battered and fried. There were about 3 leg pieces and random vegetables. I was expecting, oh, a whole soft shell crab, but these leg pieces were very large and succulent. Basically, soft shell crab tempura with other tempura veggies. The veggies were a bit greasy, but the soft shell crab was very good.

And then since I am a glutton, I also got a sake (salmon) sushi roll for $3.25. Thank god, it came out one color, and a good one at that!

Albany John ordered the Lava Roll, which is tempura-ed sweet potato. It’s so big, though. I swear they keep making it bigger every time. He also got an Alaska roll, which was salmon, avocado, and cucumber.

I was also expecting a large post-Tulip Fest crowd. I went there a few years ago with my father after Tulip Fest, and it was a bit busy, but this year there really wasn’t a large crowd. There were 2-3 tables leaving when we got there, one large table, and 2 people at the sushi bar.

The sushi chef had a Bluetooth piece in his ear, which seemed really odd. I thought the flashing of the Bluetooth earpiece didn’t really go with the serene teahouse vibe going on at Sushi House. The service was also incredibly slow. We got one drink each, no refills, even though they were empty and sitting on the edge about halfway through our meal. It took about 15-20 minutes for our drinks, and then our server came over later on to take our orders. It honestly felt like we were there for hours the way she paced (or did not pace) things. She would just disappear or seemingly zone out. More of the disappearing than anything. Our appetizers came out and were sitting next to the sushi bar for about 15 minutes before the server brought them over. For fried things, this is not so good – fresher is better. Perhaps that is why they tasted a bit heavy. Our sushi was also done shortly after the apps, and those were brought out later. Maybe she was pacing us American-style, with apps first, but I’d really rather have sushi not sit on the side forever. In sum: slow, hard to find when needed.

However, slow-as-molasses service aside, I enjoyed my food. Sure, the rice on the sushi seemed a bit too smushy, but it was still okay. Better than before, to be sure. The massago was crunchy and popping against the fried squid, and I really enjoyed the taste and texture of the soft shell crab. Best of all, the salmon roll was simple and fresh. Prices, as before, are incredibly affordable. Perhaps I will go back to Sushi House. Perhaps.

And what did I do after we got home? Oh, I ate more of Albany John’s left over birthday cake (post on that… eventually) and birthday pork. And cheese. (Quesadillas).

The next day, Albany John and I met up with his parents and went to the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Store in Norwich, VT. If you are meeting people in Brattleboro, VT to ride together to the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Store, just FYI – it is not close to Brattleboro. It is an hour north. Holy crap, it is freaking far! Do not assume that meeting up will mean that it is close by, because that is a grave misconception, my friend.

Western Massachusetts!

Aright, ya’ll. So this weekend Albany John and I went for a day trip to Eastworks in Easthampton, MA. I heartily enjoy day trips. Eastworks has converted lofts/offices (some people live there, some just work) on the top floors and a marketplace on the first floor. It’s pretty sweet. Some of the shops are rather like boutiques, but other stores make this place seem like its own little village.

Like this grocery store. Blue Moon Grocery. It’s hippie dippie, it’s got health food, bulk bins, a deli – it’s pretty sweet. And they weren’t at Whole Foods prices either – really managable.

A friend and I did a wine tasting with some Chilean wines. The whites were Sauvignon Blanc and the red was a Merlot. The white on the left was younger, and the white in the center was more aged. I liked the younger one more. The merlot – jezus. I am not a red wine person, I think. This one tasted like a dirty old tire straight off the bat. Plew!

Oh, did I mention they also had a lot of wines to buy as well. My girlfriend was really excited and kept forgetting she was in Mass, where one can obtain wine in grocery stores.

See? Not all that tiny.

Afterwards we headed off to Northampton, MA for some eats. Sorry Easthampton, you ain’t got nothin’ on the eateries in Noho. We settled on Taipei and Tokyo (18 Main St, Northampton, MA 01060 413-582-1888) for Japanese and Chinese.

Albany John ordered some meal that had veggies, scallops, shrimp and other things I can’t remember. Our other friends ordered vegetarian chicken and an avocado roll.

Being the glutton that I am, I can’t resist ordering more than everyone else at the table. I had a Salmon and Avocado roll, a shiso and mint roll with pickled plum sauce, and a soft shell crab roll. Total for all 3 rolls of mine was $12 – what?! Talk about a steal. In Albany you know that soft shell crab roll would have been at least $8-9.

They were all really good. I was excited to try the shiso and mint roll (and at $3, like I was going to pass on it!) The pieces in the center, however, were really, um, pungent? There was a bit too much pickled plum sauce on it, and I really didn’t like the sweet and sour flavor in huge levels.

Parties, tonsa food and Ali Baba

I know I eat a lot, but this weekend was filled to the gills with food. And people!

Friday night was an anti-valentines day party, devoted to finishing off leftover Smirnoff variety packs and eating red velvet cake. Fun, fun, fun! I also met someone who reads this blog! Yaaaayy! That really made my night.

Saturday Albany John threw a party to break in the arcade he Frankenstein-ed / rehabbed. We were truly surprised with the amount of people that came over – it was so nice and we really appreciated it! Normally I have awful luck and no one comes over if I try to have any sort of gathering.
White russians and margaritas were had by all. Plus tater tots. I was trying to think of something ‘good’ to serve, when Albany John goes “Tater tots. No one says no to tater tots”. Genius idea, because those hot tots were grabbed moments as they came out of the oven. We also had some chips and salsa, but for the most part, we were really low key.

Time was spent trekking to At The Warehouse, which I think is trying to be similar to the Troy Farmers Market, only in Albany. It was really nice – I had a delightful cup of tea, and Albany John shook my purse down for honey money for Center Square honey. The honey was amazing. At The Warehouse reminds me of a Middle Ages village, with many small artisians in one area.

I picked up my sister and we shopped at the Co-Op, then headed over to Ali Baba in Troy, NY and picked up some doners/wraps.
I got a beef wrap and she got a veggie wrap. We’ve heard mix reviews, but I was really jonesing for some Mediterranean grub. We’d stopped off at Sabah market in Albany, but the owners were gone and only one friend was running the grocery section of the store.

Ali Baba is on 15th street in Troy, just a few blocks from RPI.

The wraps were $6.45, and the guy who charged me just said $21 (I also got an extra for Albany John), which is about 20 or so cents rounded up, including tax. Ok, then. This was probably because I was in Super Space Cadet mode. When he first said the price for all three, I thought he said $12, so I asked him again. Then he said another thing I couldn’t hear, and by the time I asked him a 3rd time it was $20somthing, so I handed him a $20 and he looked at me funny until I gave him more money.

Ali Baba looks pretty cozy inside, and the oven seems to draw your eyes to it. It’s not overly fanciful, but has a few decorative tiles surrounding it. The oven is open, and we got to watch fresh lavash being put in the oven and puffing up into basketball-sized puffs before they were pulled out.

The beef was shaved off of a spit, and soon we had our wraps. The wraps had black and white sesame seeds on the outside, and the toasty flavors of the little seeds were a nice little addition to my beef wrap.

The beef wrap was full of beef, onion and yogurt sauce with a few sprinkles of greenery. I’m not quite sure what greenery, but I think it may have been parsley. I really enjoyed the chewy texture, which reminded me of Hawaa’s wrapper, only a bit thinner and much fresher tasting. The beef flavor was nice, and the onions were wonderfully plentiful. If you are not a fan of raw onions, I might hesitate ordering this dish, because there were a LOT of raw onion slivers in it.

I had some bites of my sister’s veggie wrap, too, because I am a glutton. I could taste mushroom, red pepper, tomato and… I’m not sure what else. It was much more colorful than my wrap though, and a lot wetter/juicier. There was a bright orange-red sauce, I’m guessing from the tomatoes, in addition to the yogurt sauce. Really enjoyable, but I wasn’t a fan of the red pepper. I’d probably see if they could make this without red pepper.

Their website is also really hard to find. I have awful seach engine skeelz, which don’t make finding it any easier.
I might try them again. Another wrap will be awesome. But prices for some of their other dishes… I don’t know. The pricing seems a bit off the walls, and some of the dishes seem pretty pricey. An eggplant kebab dinner is $15, while a lamb chop dinner is also $15. The pizzas are also $18. I can’t image them selling that many to RPI-ers, as there are so many (or used to be) cheap-o (and pretty good) pizza places in the immediate area.
Has anyone else tried Ali Baba?

Another thing to add – my sister and I were going to go to the Vegan Cafe on Madison as a last resort. She was a touch worried that Ali Baba would be one of those places that cooks the veggies on the same pan/area as the meat, and she didn’t want any cross-contamination. The veggies seemed very not-meaty or greasy.

French Lentil Soup

I’ve been sick lately. I haven’t been sick in over a year, which is quite an accomplishment for my immune system. In elementary school I was always the kid out for at least 2 days every month with a sore throat.
I’m blaming this zonky weather we’ve been having on getting sick. My body does not like huge temperature fluctuations. Not at all.
As you would imagine (or maybe not), Albany John has had to put up with me whining more than usual, which is to say, a lot. Combine a sore throat with a loss of appetite, and you’ve got me at Super Cranky Level 9: really impossible to deal with. I love eating, and not having the urge to eat anything… oh, that’s just not possible, especially when faced with tons of great food you can’t really taste because your taste buds are all gunked up.
However, Albany John made a really good French lentil soup for me that I ate for a few days, and I’m convinced it’s what made me feel better. He must have put some magical ‘Shut-the-hell-up’ seasoning in there (and it wasn’t butter!). The Post Punk Kitchen has a good recipe, which seems pretty close to what he put in there. All I know is it was a hearty, thick soup, chock full of French lentils. Here is the recipe:

French Lentil Soup w/Tarragon and Thyme
Equipment: Large soup pot
Cold winter’s day

2 cups french lentils
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large white onion, diced medium
1 large carrot, peeld and diced small
5 plum tomatoes, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika (hungarian if you’ve got it)
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
A couple of generous dashes fresh black pepper
6 cups water all together + 2 veggie bullions or 6 cups veggie broth

First a note about the water, when I add it at first I just add 4 cups, and then towards the end I add another 2. Just don’t want you to miss that and add it all at once.Heat olive oil in the soup pot. Add carrots and onions and cook about 10 minutes over med-high heat, until onions are browning and even a little burnt. Add the garlic , herbs and spices (except bay leaves), saute 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and a little spash of water if neccesary and stir to deglaze the pot. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.Add salt, 4 cups of water and bullions or veg broth and cover to bring to a boil. Add the lentils and bay leaves and cover again. Simmer about 45 minutes until lentils are almost totally tender. Add 2 more cups of water, cover and bring to a boil again, about 15 more minutes. If it looks to thin, uncover and simmer for a couple of minutes. If it looks too thick, add a little more water. Serve with good crusty bread.

I didn’t bother with the crusty bread, mainly because I didn’t feel like leaving the couch and my tub o’soup. It was insanely good and doesn’t weigh you down either. The flavors were better/stronger the 2nd or 3rd day and the lentils held up their structure very well.