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Consider the recent Pints for Paws yet another reason to love the Ruck. One Saturday afternoon the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society set up a table in the alley behind the ruck, the Ruck set up two kegs of delicious beer for $4 a pint. Laguintas IPA & Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale (both 6%+ beers).

Donate to the shelter and/or buy some of the shelter stuff for sale. Pet lots of well-behaved dogs. Count me in.

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The staff were in and out of the crowd both gathering old cups/plates and petting pooches along the way.

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Dogs of all shapes and sizes were present, eager to sniff all of the smells.

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Probably the smallest, adorable little mop of a dog.

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To a dog that wouldn’t need much to dress as a cow for halloween (seriously, that was one big, shy dog).

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There were treats out for the dogs, so that probably helped with the friendly nature. “Does that person have a treat? Do you? Treat??”. Albany John joked that since our cat is a rescue, we should have brought her to Pints for Paws, too.

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I love the Speakeasy: Albany’s new juice joint. Even if you can’t use your phone or take pictures inside. And they’re cash-only. But my gosh. The cocktails are exquisitely made, and who doesn’t like an excuse to dress up for a night out?

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I’ve been finding myself at the Speakeasy at least once a week lately. My first intro to the Speakeasy was actually kind of appropriate. I was going to go to City Beer Hall, but then decided it was too hot inside, so as I was walking back to my car to leave, I saw a friend pulling in the parking lot. He was going to the Speakeasy and invited me to join him. And after that, well… I’m hooked.

They have coins for members, but you can just walk in as long as you know what to look for. The red light and the doorbell instructing you to press only once. A cute blonde gal will answer the boarded up windows and doors with a bit of moxie, and once you say you’re coming for drinks you get the nod in.

P1010099I wish I could show you the artfully made cocktails. While part of me is pitching a fit about the technology ban, part of me also respects a place with rules of decorum and the ultimate goal of losing yourself and your troubles. Damn the Torpedoes is a delicious cocktail if you’re craving something on the heavier end of the cocktail spectrum. The Gin Fizz is incredibly refreshing on a hot summer’s day, and served in a highball glass with a rectangular ice cube. They even have a selection of ice cube shapes and sizes.

Cocktails are $12, and entirely too easy to drink. There’s a short menu, so you should probably grab a snack before going in if you’re planning on staying for any length of time.

I love the whole 1920s speakeasy culture and how The Speakeasy has interpreted it – it’s dark, the music plays but isn’t overwhelming. Even the live music. Live music in Albany that you can talk over is a rarity. No one’s in a rush, and the service is both polished and coy.

So guys and dolls, brush up on your 1920s slang and let’s meet up for giggle water.

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My Dad and his lovely lady come upstate to celebrate his birthday. We started off with beer and snacks at The Ruck.

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BBQ wings, with just the right amount of kick. A random afternoon is a great time to hit the Ruck up – it’s pretty empty, and they have free wifi if you need to log on.

For dinner, we went to Taiwan Noodle. My dad loves this place – great home cooking and low, low prices.

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Wood ear with celery on the right, boiled lettuce with oyster sauce on the right. My Dad loves that boiled lettuce dish. After this one was gone, he got a second plate. Personally, I’m not a fan of the flavor or texture iceberg lettuce gets when it’s boiled. Must be a generational thing.

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Pig feet appetizer! So tender and gelatinous.

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Two orders of har gow, because I will always eat the heck out of them, so when there’s more than 2 people, it’s better to get 2 orders when I’m around.

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Two soups – three mushroom and pork chop noodle soups. Tender, fried pork chop – very ample amount of pork chops in that soup! As always, both broths were quite delicate and flavorful. In this weather, non-greasy soups are key.

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Some you tiao crullers – fried and crunchy on the outside, chewy breading on the inside. Yum!

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And a pork belly app to round this meal out. Oh, we also BOYB’ed some beers since they don’t have alcohol on the menu.

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We were going to head to Crisan for a birthday dessert, but got there just after it closed, so we walked across the street The Wine Bar & Bistro on Lark.

We grabbed both menus, and my dad and his chickie both liked their regular menu, so we’ll probably be back the next time they’re in town.

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Our server was a beautiful brunette who overheard us talking quietly about Dad’s birthday and surreptitiously brought out his dessert with a candle in it, while thankfully sparing him the birthday song.

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We all ended up splitting orders of their berry shortbread – crumbly & rich shortbread, lots of berries and whipped cream. Yum.

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Last week was the opening party for the Olde English‘s back patio. I somehow managed to be online at the right time to snag one of their eventbrite tickets. Free entry, free drinks (with free glass, even), and grilled long hot dogs & frozen burgers. But the real star was the patio. This wasn’t one of those lame “Hey, our shitty patio is open,” patios, or when “patio dining” means eating on the sidewalk of a busy street.

The folks at The Olde English made good use of the trees here. I remember when this was Nicole’s Bistro, and the back patio was a bit too shaded and overgrown. There were a few tables, but it didn’t go as far back as it currently does.

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Why hello, sailor! After checking in with Mark to cross my name off of the guest list, this mustachioed chap was at the ready with Newcastle and Strongbow. A Newcastle for me, a Strongbow for Albany John. The cider was a really good choice, what with the heat/humidity and all. But man, I love Newcastle. (Newcastle is pretty much the only beer I can keep at home that Albany John won’t drink. It’s a little too sour/lemony for his tastes)

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I also love Newcastle’s marketing techniques. Online, they’re pretty irreverent and funny, and it was good to see they kept the same tone with their promotional items as well.

I’d say the only drawback to the patio at the moment were the incredibly loud generators underneath the Clinton St. 787 exit as part of the 787 repairs. But let’s keep our fingers crossed that they finish construction this season so we can really enjoy the patio.

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I saw that The Ruck was randalling Dogfish Head Festina Peche through red raspberries, blueberries, white peaches. Three cheers for social media! I promptly squealed and informed Albany John that we were going to The Ruck. No protests from him, he loves that bar.

The Festina Peche initially wasn’t pouring right, and the bartender could only get 3/4 of a glass out. As you can tell, it was good, because by the time we got a 2nd beer, Albany John and I had downed about half of it. It was pretty refreshing, with lots of white peach notes, and the berries adding more sweetness to it.

It was sticky and humid in The Ruck, so I asked the bartender for another light somewhat fruity refreshing beer, and got this ginger/grapefruit beer. Definitely refreshing, and Albany John loved the assertive gingery flavor. It reminded me more of a gingery spritzer than a syrupy beer. Good for summer.

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Albany John noticed sweet potato tots on their menu, so we got an order ($6). It came with raspberry melba sauce, which was jammy and went well with the tots. Good fry job – didn’t taste too heavy or anything.

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Got another Festina Peche randalled through fruit and it poured all the way this time. Guess what – only $5! Five bucks! How crazy-good is that pricing for good tasting beer? This is why I love the Ruck.

DSCF5283 The Charles F. Lucas Confectionery is one of my favorite new additions to downtown Troy. I’ve been there a few times already. Go for a platter of their charcuterie. The 3 choices for $12 worked well as a hearty snack for Albany John and me. You can choose between cheeses and charcuteries, but we went with a meaty trio.
Hot smoked duck breast on the upper left corner, boar pate in the center, and duck salami on the right. The boar really hit a high note with my taste buds: can’t wait to order it again. Good texture to the salami, too. I’d probably skip the smoked duck breast in the future. It was fine, but since I’ve started smoking my own meats at home I make things way smokier than other places tend to.

The kalamata olive tapenade is next on my hit list.

DSCF5281The bread was nice – from Placid Baker. This is such a cute date night place, and even when it’s busy they are so nice about seating you and trying to find you a place to stay.

I love the idea of wine from a tap. I got a glass of red, which was drinkable and tasty enough, but didn’t really make me want to order the same one again. Maybe I will try a white next time.

Service was great – our waitress kept refilling water frequently, was pleasant, and knew when to come over just enough.

DSCF5256Here’s a picture from another (more casual) time when we grabbed a table to stand at. I really like that they don’t push you to drink at the Confectionery. Albany John and I were getting over colds when we went here and went for hot beverages instead of wine. No pouting from our waitress or anything.

Oh my gosh, the lattes ($4). So good. So nutty and sweet. No sugar needed, although they have a variety of caloric and non-caloric sweeteners available. The herbal teas are $3, and pretty generous as well. A pot is a bit larger than a mug. The African Nectar soothed my sore throat.

Desserts are from Sweet Sue’s just down the road on River Street. I like the truffles and the macaroons (only $1.50!), but the whoopie pie is a bit dry/crumbly and the filling is a chocolate buttercream. I think your best bet is for anything that generally stays moist and doesn’t risk drying out. I’ve had some of Sue’s other baked cake-goods and they’re normally really moist. But cakes can dry out after a few hours, and if you’re here, it’s generally later at night past when a bakery would be open.

Anyway, the truffles are snacking orbs for $1 each. I liked the white chocolate and lavender. And for real, the macaroon was coconutty and light without being too chewy or as dense as a paperweight.

Now where do I buy chalkboard plates? Those things are adorable!

 

 

What do you do when you’re in Saratoga Springs, NY for a late-ish dinner after the opening of Badger’s Hookah Bar just a few blocks away? You hope Danika at Garnish Marketing says “I’m going to go to Druthers for a drink in a little bit. You in?” Yes. Yes yes yessity yes.

Albany John had a blast taking pics of the Druthers table at the Saratoga Wine, Food, and Fall Ferrari Festival this past September. They were happy, fun, and lively – great energy, and I meant to head around to Druthers to try their fare in-store.

A chill in the air made Albany John crave Chili Con Carne ($8), which lists habanero among its beefy ingredients, but isn’t anything overpowering, or even all that hot. Albany John was a big fan of this chili – very little fat/grease on top, and lots of deep, beefy flavor.

He also got a pint of Fist of Karma Brown Ale ($6), which he thought to be miles above Newcastle (which is one of my favorite beers lately). I dunno. I still prefer Newcastle. This was a bit hoppier & tarter.

Pasta fagioli ($6) for another friend. Vegan, even.

A rare Given My Druthers Burger ($12) for me. Cute Druthers brand on the bread bun.  I got greens on the side (you could also get fries), which were pretty heavily dressed. I’d ask for them naked next time.

Happiness is a bloody rare burger. This was pretty hefty, yet unsurprisingly I managed to finish it all. I didn’t really taste the pickled green onion or pickled shallot that the menu lists, but the chuck, short rib, and smoked pork belly. I’m glad I’ve found restaurant in the area that makes a rare burger rare and not medium-rare or medium.

Danika & her Mr. got the flight of beers on tap, which was $14 for 7 4-oz flights. The waitress was a peach & wrote out all of the beers on tap, too.

The Cheese Traveler hosted a wine & cheese pairing at the First Universalist Church in Albany using fairly local wines and cheeses. $25 per person for five wines and cheeses, and the folks were so nice! Unsurprisingly, I arrived (un)fashionably late and didn’t pay until after the event was over, but it’s normally done where you walk in and pay upon arrival.

Here are The Cheese Traveler & The Profussor waxing poetic over wine and fromages. The day/night this was happening I was waffling about attending when a local social media guru & Daniel B. encouraged me to attend. Thank goodness for good friends. This was a great night and I’m glad I made it!
Here’s Daniel B. Cutting off the nose of the cheese. All of the rinds were edible. My memory is terrible, and I’m at least a week behind on posting this, so I don’t really remember any of the cheeses I tasted, other than the last goat cheese blue which was really salty and tasty, and a soft cheese for the first cheese that I really liked. And all of the rinds were edible. Maybe Daniel B. or some other kind samaritan will chip in in the comments.
Lights out! Sexy cheese time!
I cut mangled the last cheese. It was soft and super salty. One of the parishioners of the church made these awesome candied pecans. Oh, so good. Sweet and crunchy, so good with the salty, tangy cheese.
And then we went to Hollywood for buffalo wings. Service was awesome. I’ve always felt like Hollywood was my ideal bar, especially now that they serve food. $4 cape codders and $2.50 PBRs don’t hurt, either.
Crispy fried chicken wings! And tasty blue cheese (really thick & light on the mayo). These were great chicken wings. Meaty, crispy, not too greasy, and plenty of kick to the wings. Can’t wait to go back and order these again.

Our trip to New Orleans began with fast food take out. Look, I know. But waffle fries. C’mon!
Grilled chicken & waffle fries! Nom. New Orleans is only 3.5-4 hours from Jackson, MS. Not bad for an overnight trip. It’s like going to NYC from Albany, only with a slightly more debaucherous air.
I met up with my Brother-In-Law (in-law?), my sis-in-law Maka’s brother. He lives in New Orleans and picked us up from our hotel in the French Quarter to grab dinner at the High Hat, a fairly new restaurant. One of the benefits of tourism is having people drive you to awesome places.
The high hat had a retro feel inside – lots of wood.
Dinner menu was short and sweet, with a few specials on the menu board. The most expensive thing tops out at $14, so you won’t break the bank here.
Specialty cocktail of the night – Albany John got one. Good stuff. I stole a sip. I can’t remember what it was. My bad!
I got the two cat fish dinner. $13.50 for two whole catfish. So good! And a TON of food for one person, but somehow I managed, hehe. Coleslaw as a side, and greens as another side. Greens were nice – zippy collards.

Albany John got an oyster po’boy with okra and tomatoes as his side. Man loves him some okra. I still think it’s pretty slimy stuff, but he really enjoyed this preparation. I really enjoyed the fried oysters. Mmm.

Afterward, my awesome bro-in-law^2 gave us a tour of the area at night – local colleges, and all that good stuff. It was interesting to see how some blocks would start off looking all fancy-dancy, but have a middle section that was run down.

After that, it was time for SECOND DINNER! Bwa ha! We waited in line at Felix’s for some oysters for a short spell.

Bro & Margarita got a Jester – some kind of specialty frozen drink. There were billboards on the drive in touting it as the strongest drink in New Orleans. I stole a sip – reminded me of alcoholic Ecto-Cooler Hi-C.


I was intrigued by these nearly open air bars. You can walk around New Orleans with alcoholic drinks. It’s kind of like Albany on a parade day, but with less rioting.

Albany John held our place in line, and it had scootched up for us to get a neat view of an empty grenade cup.

Oyster shucking!
Menu!
Once we were seated, we ordered quickly – Albany John and Margarita weren’t feeling savory, so they split a brick of bread pudding. Don’t put this on your bucket list. Interestingly spongy.
Bro & I were ALL ABOUT the oysters. We got a dozen char broiled. Holy moly! Order these, they’re awesome! $16 for a dozen deliciously briny oysters slathered in butter with some Romano or Parmesan tossed on top.

If you’re in New Orleans – get these, get these, GET THESE. The oysters themselves were lightly cooked, and oh man. So good. Charred and reminiscent of grilled beef – very meaty and savory things, these. Even Margarita liked them, and she doesn’t really care for oysters.


And a dozen raw! Their horseradish is on the table, and it’s got quite an addictive kick. So fresh, and not as pungent as oysters north of the Mason-Dixon line. Southern oysters grow quickly because of the warm waters, but don’t develop as much flavor. If you’re not a fan of Oysters in NY because of their pungency, give these a try. Same great texture, and a lighter flavor profile.

These all had bits of shell in it, though. Mildly annoying, but easy enough to spit out. No issues with shells in the char broiled variety.

It’s drinkin’ time! Felix’s is located right in the French Quarter, so there’s nightlife all over. These cherry bomb shots were $1. Good lord, I think they were made with a combination of tequila, everclear, and rubbing alcohol. Po-tent! Phew!
Here’s a place called the Rat’s Hole. So, story time:
In high school, my boyfriend’s parents liked going to New Orleans. They’d tell me about this place called the Rat’s Hole that was a fun little shop with Rat-themed shirts and souvenirs. They’d stop by when they visited for souvenirs. This is they story they told me.

Yes, they sold some shirts, but they also sold a whole lot of adult beads, and cheap ass drinks. It was neat to see it IRL-sies, and then be like, WAIT A MINUTE. They were out partying!

As it turns out, New Orleans is kind of a mecca for partiers and drinkers of all ages. We were probably on the younger side of the age spectrum, with a majority of people out and about in their late thirties through mid fifties.

Here’s a picture I snagged of their rat-related drink cups.

This was Miss Allison or Alice… something like that. She was directing traffic outside of two gay bars. And actually doing quite a good job of making sure traffic wasn’t completely impeded by pedestrians, and vice-versa.

We stopped in one of the bars for some people watching from the balconies – good spot to people watch from above.
Then We stopped in for a drink at the Tropical Isle.
Grenades! Albany John got a skinny grenade. Blech. Really artifical tasting. These came with ice or without. Wow, without is one potent drink I’d imagine. I went with ice.
I liked this old signage. Very cute. And hey, you can just barely make out our four shadows. We ended up hanging out/dancing in a clubby little bar called Voo Doo something or other. It was on Bourbon Street, but many of these clubs/bars are pretty darned similar – you can walk in with drinks, buy cheap ones there ($3 shots! Although Bro managed to find a beer for $6.50), and just dance around to whatever they have playing. There are… I wanna call ‘em “hosts” in these clubs. Basically just a guy on stage that sings along into a mic occasionally with whatever song is playing, and act as host/DJ to keep the crowds interested and lively. The songs are on loop after a while.

I liked this smaller bar over a larger one we went to. At the larger bar the crowd was a little rowdier – one guy walked up and knocked Albany John’s drink all over me for no reason on his way out. Thanks, buddy. This smaller one had a little more character and a whole lot of people watching crammed in. Having one or 17 drinks too many is definitely nothing out of the ordinary in New Orleans.


It was quite a fun night out. We had to leave the day of the first parade, so we missed what I’m guessing would be some really wild nightlife, but still – great time overall. I’m not a big club/nightlife kind of gal on most occasions, but in general, the people were all generally happy dispositions. Your hotel might cost you an arm and a leg in the French Quarter, but you’ll break even on the cheapo nighlife and noshes.

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