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CBH 001 amuse popcorn

“Hey m’dear, any interest in going to a whiskey tasting dinner tomorrow night at City Beer Hall  (in collaboration with The Speakeasy)?”

There’s something to be said for good friends who bring you food when you’re sick, generally check in on you while conquering the world, and take you as their date to a whiskey dinner. Deanna Fox is one of those friends and then some. *swoons at succinct offer of one of my favorite brown liquors*

City Beer Hall’s chef Dimitrios Menagias and Robert Mack, the man behind the Speakeasy’s cocktail program, teamed up to pair food with drink from Brown Forman (an American owned spirit and wine business). It was a good night.

We had a popcorn amuse atop a truffled mousse with mushrooms. Paired with the fun amuse drink below whose name I’ve forgotten because this happened a week ago and I have the memory of a fly.

CBH 001 Drink
CBH Course 1 Drink Indian Candy Corn cocktailCBH Course 1 Drink Woodford White Corn Bourbon

Course 1: Indian Candy Corn cocktail (left) featuring Woodford White Corn Bourbon (neat, on the right).
The bourbon itself had a strong caramel scent, and was a real kicky type bourbon. The cocktail was equally punchy.

CBH Course 1 Winter Salad

Course 1: Winter Salad. Grilled prawn, carrots, starfruit, napa cabbage, persimmon nuoc chom. A few kernels of freeze dried corn on the right that paired very well with the meal and bourbon. This made me realize how underutilized napa cabbage is in its raw, salad-y form. A great winter salad with bright notes from the persimmon nuoc chom.

CBH Course 2 Charcuterie

Course 2: Charcuterie. My notes on this dish are covered in hearts. Duck pastrami, foie gras mousse, venison, sweet corn mostarda, pickled green tomatoes. I was talking with some folks recently who said they just didn’t “get” foie gras, and I had to reconsider our friendship for a moment. It’s fat, rich, and delicious. What’s not to like? Duck pastrami was deliciously smoky, aand was great paired with the pickled green tomatoes. The sweet corn mostarta also contained some toasted corn.

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I just couldn’t help but take  bunch of pictures of this plate. There was so much to love!

CBH Course 2 Drink Lion's Tail

Course 2: Lion’s Tail with Old Forester 1870 (which I forgot to take a picture of, and the cocktail picture isn’t much better. sigh). I LOVED the Lion’s tail it was tart and smoky with clove flavors. More hearts drawn around this cocktail. The Old Forester 1870 is the founding brand. 90 proof, spicy, and burns just a tad when sipped neat.

CBH Course 3 Intermezzo

Course 3: Intermezzo, with a cocktail reprieve. Pomelo sorbetto, aperol, candied pomelo peel. Dimitrios knocked this out of the park. The skill alone in candying the pomelo peel deserves respect. They were so thin, and so perfectly candied. Covered in sugar, and not too dry or too chewy. One of our table mates wasn’t familiar with pomelo, and remarked that it tasted “kind of like weed smells”, which is actually kind of accurate with its dank tartness and pungent citrus oils. It’s great to see this citrus featured front and center, especially as a plate cleanser.

CBH Course 4 Manhattan

Course 4: Manhattan with Old Forester 1897, where I have clearly crossed over from sober to jovial as I’ve forgotten to take another shot of the bourbon in its neat form. This may have been my favorite to drink neat or with a few drops of water in it, despite my forgetfulness. It had a tart nasal note, a bit milder than the white corn bourbon in the first course, with what I can only describe as having  great spicy afterburn. Definitely something to warm you up on cold winter night. The Manhattan was also expertly executed, using charred bitters and rhubarb vermouth. And that cherry. Or as my notes read “Oh my god, that brandied cherry”. It’s juicy and delicious and I love saving it to chew with the last few sips of the drink at the end. I think I could just load that Manhattan up with those brandied cherries and be a happy woman.

CBH Course 4 Wild Boar

Course 4: Wild Boar. Smoked corn relish, spaetzle, baby kale, red pepper oil. The corn was smoked over apple wood, the spaetzle was made with parsnip and mustard seed which added a lightly sweet and vegetal note to the spaetzle. All of this worked wonderfully with the boar, and sipping the Manhattan along with this dish made me feel like a very lucky woman to be eating such a fine dish, and to have a friend who’d invite me along to even try this.

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I had to use every ounce of willpower to resist picking up the bone and sucking every bit of delicious cartilage and tendon off of the bone.

CBH course 5 Jack Daniels Howard St. Scaffa

Course 5: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, Barrel Proof (left); Howard St. Scaffa (right). Wow, barrel proof. 130.8% alcohol. Holy caramel smell, with a subtle note of cinnamon. “Drinkable fire” someone noted at our table. Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” was playing in my head drinking this, in very enjoyable way. The Howard St. Scaffa featured a mellow cointreau noir and one drop of Angry God ghost pepper bitters. A definite way to turn up the heat.

CBH course 5 Stuffed Figs

Course 5: Stuffed Figs. Harbison, pecan, Shiva’s wrath bitters, dark chocolate. Harbison cheese stuffed into a Greek dried fig which was reconstituted in cointreau noir. The pecans were toasted and tossed in Shiva’s wrath bitters. This was a delightful way to end the dinner on a high note. The Harbison was creamy (a triple cream to be exact) with grassy, funky, rich notes that worked well to counter the heat of the drinks and complement the sweetness of the fig.

Way to end dinner on a high note. Mic drop Dimitrios and Robert.

Mountain Man came for a visit from Colorado for a few weeks. Albany John and Mountain Man went to SUNY Albany together, so he’s familiar with Albany, but it has changed since he went to school here. Thankfully, he likes eating and being outdoors, so we’re in good company. The bar for good food is pretty low where he lives in Colorado. Between most things getting trucked in and the elevation, there isn’t a ton of fresh/good food or variety where he lives.

We took him to Ala Shanghai for some real Chinese food. He told us some pretty horrific “Chinese” food take out stories in CO. He was so happy to have real dumplings, and that fresh whole steamed fish… man. So good.

Evidently the only cheap things in CO are the beer and alcohol, heh.

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Sushi is a crapshoot where Mountain Man is from. He’s in a touristy town and the elevation does something funny to the rice. We went to Sushi X. I know it’s not the greatest sushi ever, but there is something alluring about AYCE rock shrimp, grilled squid, and some fairly decent sushi rolls and sashimi.
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For $25 a person or so, it’s a pretty decent dinner out. Check off what you want on the order slips. Everything is made to order and quality is decent for what it is, and the selection is pretty wide. I’ve noticed that they don’t quite fill your order slips fully. A few orders might get left off, but eh, that’s what round 2 of ordering is for.
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We continued the Albany New Things tour by going to Nine Pin Cider Tasting Room downtown. The day we went was when they also had “Ciders & Sliders”, pairing up with Slidin’ Dirty serving up in their garage.
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The Nine Pin Flight was okay, though they only half-filled two of the flights for no particular reason, which was kind of a rip. We also got a bottle of cider to share and surreptitiously sip on with burgers.
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Sliding Dirty had a long ass line queuing when we got there. For me, the crowd was a bit overwhelming, but thankfully a friend was nice enough to wait in line for me.
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Sliding Dirty will put your burger on a tortilla if you’re celiac/doing the gluten-free thing, though if you are a true celiac their presentation may pose an issue for you, as they didn’t separate the tortillas from the bun-ed burgers, so gluten cross-contamination may be an issue for the very sensitive.

I thought the sliders were okay, but the price point kind of kills me at $4 per slider. You’d need at least 2 sliders for a meal if you’re peckish, at least 3 if you’re hungry, so you’re looking at a good $8-12 to start for sliders. When I think sliders I think “affordable”, and $8-12 to start for sliders isn’t what I really think of as affordable. FWIW, I hear they are trying to move to all local grass-fed beef in the future, which would at least rationalize the price point somewhat. I’m also not a huge fan of the bread-to-meat ratio on sliders in general, so I’m likely not Slidin Dirty’s target market. I’d just rather get a steak to grill at home for $12, or an actual burger somewhere else with a lower bun-to-meat ratio if I’m feeling burger-y. What the hey, lots of folks seem to like them, and they’ve just opened up a physical location, so this is just my curmudgeonly take on the slider fad.
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City Beer Hall was one of the final stops on the Newish In Albany Tour. Mystery buckets and brown liquor to round out a visit.

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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.

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