I found some corned beef on super-clearance at Hannaford. Hmm, it’s not corned beef season, but it is grill season, which means pastrami/smoked corned beef was on my menu.
I found some corned beef on super-clearance at Hannaford. Hmm, it’s not corned beef season, but it is grill season, which means pastrami/smoked corned beef was on my menu.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Afghan Kebab Express is tucked away in the Chinese-character-ed shopping plaza at 305 Central Ave. One of my friends really likes it, and arranged a casual group dinner.
Their menu is on the smaller side, which is good. There are some random funny dishes. Not the lamb shank in the background (which is a steal at $12.99, and so deliciously lamby and tender), but the chicken qorma in the center. It’s just on the menu as a side dish for $3.99, so obviously curiosity won out and we had to order it. It was interesting. More tomato based than creamy, and the veggies seemed like they came out of a frozen mixed Birdseye veggie bag, though at least they weren’t mushy. The chicken seems to be leftover kebab chicken since it had a nice char to it. Definitely an interesting riff on quorma/korma and a good way to repurpose leftovers on the cheap.
Beef kabab ($8.99) which you should really avoid ordering as it’s filet mignon, which is done no favors by cooking over a skewer and drying out by the time the exterior gets a char. They were pretty adamant that “that’s how it’s supposed to be”, but sawdust isn’t a flavor profile that our table was crazy about. After a bit of prodding they took it off the receipt and fired up a second order of …
Koobideh kabab platter ($8.99). Hello delicious! Now this really shines as a kebab/kabab. Fatty ground lamb and beef charred to perfection over an incredibly large portion of rice. You know I’m not a huge rice fan, but this was delicious. I almost ate all of the rice, which is saying something.
All of the platters come with a side salad (some lettuce, raw carrots, cucumber, tomato).
There are also hot sauces in jars on the table to spice up your dishes at your discretion. Weeknight dinner was pretty dead, and not too many take out orders. Hopefully their business will pick up, but I wonder if the location is a problem. Service was ambivalent and efficient. Go for the fattier cuts and you’ll be very happy you came.
Adventure in Food had a rockin’ special in April for a full Australian grassfed ribeye roast for $5.99/lb. Yes. So yes. We grilled it up for Albany John’s birthday in May. It was an awesome and affordable way to go all out for any occasion.
Here’s what the full roast looked like unfrozen and out of the vac bag. Yep, that’s one whole ribeye roast alright. This was a hefty guy, something close to 15 lbs, if I recall.
Mr. Beefers after a few days in the fridge shortly before go-time. It took up about half of a row in my fridge, and after a few days I started talking to it and calling it Mr. Beefers. “Good morning, Mr. Beefers,” and “My, you’re looking well today, Mr. Beefers!”
At this point I wasn’t sure how well the experiment would turn out. Would Mr. Beefers acquire an off flavor from the fridge? Would it make any difference?
A few hours over indirect heat on the grill (and covered on occasion). I didn’t carve anything off before slapping it on the grill. Once it hit rare, it came off the grill. And as you can see from the first image, I didn’t screw it up and cook it well done!
It was an intensely beefy flavor, to be sure, although I’m not sure how much was from the dry aging or the grilling. However, I did slice off two large hunks so Mr. Beefers would fit on the grill, so I’ll give you a heads up if I notice something spiritual going on when it’s not kissed with smoky goodness. Overall, it was an awesome way to feed a crowd of 15+ people (with leftovers for seemingly EVER) for under $100. Definitely check out Adventure in Food’s specials page for deals like this when they come up.
I love Ethiopian food. It’s something that we have absolutely NONE of in Albany, so whenever I’m near a place with Ethiopian food, I will always choose Ethiopian. Whenever I’m in NYC I can never manage to get away to Manhattan for Ethiopian food. But on my most recent visit I managed to convince my Dad, his girlfriend, and uncle to try Ethiopian food at Awash on the Upper West Side.
We drove there from Flushing in about a half hour, found (free) street parking after paying for parking (of course), and were seated immediately. The interior is gorgeous. Very romantic and lots of low lighting.
So what did we order?
Starting at the red stuff on the left, we got:
Key Sir Afcha (carrots, beets, and potato)
Awash Tibs (grilled beef)
More Key Sir Afcha
Gomen Besiga (lamb, collards, onions)
Free cabbage and carrot dish
Free lentil dish
Shiro (chickpeas and split peas with tomato and onion)
Center: Awash Chicken
We all LOVED the Gomen Besiga. That was just a fantastic combination of flavors. Lamby goodness, collards, and onions with delicious Ethiopian butter and false cardamom. Mmm. Just fantastic. It was all good, but this was a standout dish.
I also had to order the kitfo (raw beef), which was also good, if a bit heavy on the butter.
The injera was soft and spongy, but not too moist or sour. It was definitely a good intro injera to folks new to Ethiopian food. I’ve had it more sour than this preparation, but really it’s all about the texture for me and this was great. Soft with a little bit of chewy pliancy to it, but not tough or hard.
We had a few leftovers that we took with us. Their menu is a bit out of date. Prices are a few dollars higher per item than listed, and their physical menu touts a vegan meal available as well.
All that plus three glasses of Ethiopian wine was $160 with 20% post-tax gratuity included.
The Fuj mentioned some new dishes on Taiwan Noodle‘s menu over the winter, and after the third or so mention, I asked him and Elise to meet Albany John and me there for a meal recently, and they kindly obliged.
First up: Spicy Shredded pork stomach ($3.95) on the left, 5-Spice Beef Shank on the right ($5.95). Hefty portion of beef in that dish. Served cold like deli meat, still very meaty. The pork stomach is served over a bed of peanuts. It’s can taste a touch gamey, but if you order the fried pig intestines it tastes mild by comparison.
The onslaught of shareable plates. Wood ear in the fore front, adding in the fried pig intestine (the red stuff top left) and scallion pancakes. Woah, the pig intestine was some stuff yo’ A-ma or Yeh-Yeh would be eating. That stuff was intense. Albany John is an old man at heart and he loved them (thank god, because the rest of us were not into them).
Squid rings! These had a nice breading and chew on the squid. I could eat a plate of these on my own. They had a side of seasoned salt, which was already in the batter. They said it wasn’t really necessary, and it wasn’t, but I guess they’ve had enough people ask that they now just bring some out.
Wonton soup on the left, and a dish from a new part of the menu – baked rice. This baked rice was seafood. It was a gravy type dish over rice. Kind of like baked fried rice, but with gravy. I’m not a huge rice fan, but I was really into this dish.
Pretty sure I ate close to half of this on my own.
Oh wait, did we also get Xiao Long Bao? I think we did, but I must have been too busy gobbling them down! Haha.
Last weekend I drove down to Flushing to celebrate Chinese New Year with my family. It was our first year celebrating without Yeh-Yeh, our family’s patriarch. That didn’t really hit me until shortly before my drive down, but for me simply having these traditions with family keeps us together and that is what is important.
The drive down was a breeze (when I drive to Flushing from Albany I go: 90E > Taconic > 84E > 684S > 678SHutchinson River Pkwy> Whitestone Bridge. It’s about 15 minutes more than taking 87S down, but it saves on the tolls up until the Whitestone Bridge ($7.50) and breaks up the drive into smaller chunks so I don’t get bored. It also probably seems more complicated to hop off of the Taconic onto 84E, but it’s a much smoother drive with better drivers than taking the Taconic down all the way (you avoid where the road narrows, and all of the crappy drivers on it).
I got in shortly after 5, and figured I’d have to drive a while for parking, but found free street parking within 30 minutes! Woo hoo! I didn’t have to move the entire time I was there. I don’t know about you, but when I head down to NYC, I like to park and just leave my car until I’m ready to head back home.
For dinner we went to Jin Cheng Restaurant, which I protested because last year we had a pretty craptacular experience at the kid’s table, and I thought we went there more for its close proximity to Yeh-Yeh’s condo than the quality of the food. I’ve since discovered they are better at lunch, or when they’re not busy, so they’re not a total lost cause, but I had prepped myself for a less-than-awesome Chinese New Year dinner because Chinese New Year Weekend in Flushing = every Chinese Restaurant is gonna be mobbed.
I was pleasantly surprised with how GOOD dinner was. Maybe it’s because we were a smaller group and not two big tables. (Maybe Yeh-Yeh was in the kitchen yelling at the chefs for me ;) ) It was my dad, his best gal, my uncle, Albany John, and me.
Honey-walnut-mayo prawns with broccoli on the left. Plump and fat shrimp, no complaints there. Fresh crispy skin chicken at the top, and the same beef on the right (after initial decimation)
Lobster Cantonese-style with ginger and scallions. We got two big lobsters. So perfectly cooked. I would say this is one of my favorite ways to eat lobster. This way, or just steamed.
Whole steamed flounder. Mmm. It looks big, but it’s easy to eat a lot of. So light and good.
Albany John and I went for a little walk after dinner to digest. Naturally we wound up at Tous Les Jours, a French-Asian bakery.
Like most Asian bakeries, there’s a bunch of goodies laid out for you to pick yourself, plus refrigerated things behind the counter.
I wanted to keep walking, so we had a late-night (for Flushing, i.e. 9 PM) picnic on a bench near the police station (I know romance).
I usually love the stuff Tous Les Jours makes, but man this was mixed bag. The vanilla milkshake was really unpleasant – lots of large chunks of ice, and cheap vanilla ice cream. Bleh. And $4.50 to boot.
Macarons: skip. Red velvet on the left and Oreo on the right. Red velvet had no notable red velvet flavor, and used a pasty vanilla buttercream as the filling. The black “Oreo” macaron also bore no flavor of its namesake, and was equally pasty. Disappointing. I should have avoided from the start because while these were not cracked, they had some cracked macarons on display, and if they took pride in their macarons, the cracked ones would never be up for sale.
Albany John got a cream cheese pastry. These are epically delicious in an it’s-so-bad-for-you kind of way. I’m pretty sure I could hear one of his arteries start to clog. They don’t skimp on the cream cheese.
I had a backup pastry which was tasty – a soft and fluffy bun filled with sweet potato filling and covered in almond flour/meal. Yum. Stick with the baked goods you can pick yourself and you’ll be good.
The next day we kicked off the day eating (of course).
Joe’s Shanghai to start for breakfast. We got there right when they opened at 11 AM and had no wait.
Big steamer full of 8 Pork & Crab Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings). If you go to Joe’s Shanghai, you absolutely must get xiao long bao. The tongs are kind of unnecessary, and the teeth on them can pierce the skin of the dumpling, and there goes all of your soupy goodness. Their skins were good (but Ala Shanghai’s are thinner!), but the broth is where these dumplings shine. Each soup dumpling contains a glorious broth. Each dumpling is a treat, and if I think just a bit, I can relive those flavors for just a moment. The broth is thick and rich, with hearty flavors from both the pork and crab, but neither standing out over the other and instead combining to make this magical soup that you can’t get enough of.
Shanghai style rice cakes, with some veggies and meat. Nice softness and wok hei.
Two big bowls of soup. I think their soups are a bit on the bland side, at least after eating the xiao long bao. Beef chuck on the left, pork and veggies on the right. Noodles are okay, but they need a little salt or something. I think the soups at Taiwan Noodle are better though (deeper broth flavors and better noodles).
Then Albany John and my uncle split off to do their own thing, and Dad and his gal and I were off to have more adventures. I was SUPER excited because I was planning on going to Sunrise Kitchen & Hardware Supplies (4205 Main St, Flushing, NY). This place is awesome for all of your Asian kitchen gadget needs.
Went to Rose House for an English-style tea break. Overall, I’d say it’s a nice place if you want to get away from the loudness and crowds in a pretty atmosphere and comfy seats, but that’s about it. All of the teas seemed to taste the same, and they were on the expensive side – $9.00+ per small pot.
Service was weird. A server initially told us there was a 2 hr sitting limit because it was the weekend (which was fine and totally reasonable), but then after being there for a total of 40 minutes the same server took away our tea warmers and started checking the pots. There were no crowds waiting for a table, either.
There are tables, but order here at the counter for to-go orders. It also shares space with a Chinese butcher further near the front of the store. It’s not the cleanest looking space, but $4.00 for a banh mi was calling my name.
Hello gorgeous. A nice baguette tucked into a parchment sleeve.
SO GOOD! Look at that bread. It’s deliciously perfect little baguettes with a crisp exterior that gives way to a soft, squishy interior. Great for banh mi and stuffing with julienned veggies, pate, meat, and cliantro. Yum, yum, yum.
$4.00 for all of this, versus $6.50 (to start) for a small banh mi at Pho Yum in Albany that doesn’t even use the right bread.
I wound up going to a friend’s that night.
The next morning we went to Jade Restaurant for dim sum with one of my aunts and some cousins.
The wait wasn’t too bad, but my aunt saw a friend of hers who was a manager, and we got whisked off to a side room that I’ve never seen before (that was opened up to handle the Chinese New Year crowds). That was awesome – less loudness and craziness, all of the carted dim sum goodies.
Food, food everywhere. So good.
We hung out for a bit, but soon it was time to hit the road.
Chinese New Year 2014, The Year of the Horse, has been one festive year so far! I began celebrations with friends at Ala Shanghai. After seeing their specials for Chinese New Year, I couldn’t wait to get in!
The skins were so thin you could see through them!! See how it bulges a bit on the left? It’s because the skin is so thin! So much soupy goodness. Yum, yum, yum.
And now for the mains! Double Happiness special entree ($19.88) in the front – salt and pepper fish fillets and squid. LOVED this! The salt and pepper coating was perfect – crispy (not fluffy or beer-batter-y) and not the least bit greasy or oily.
Hands down my favorite dish of the night was the Golden Duo ($23.88), which was soft shell crab & whole shrimp coated in a salted preserved egg batter and fried. Ala Shanghai has a soft shell crab-only version of dish on their normal menu, so thankfully this goodness is available year-round.
If you’ve never had an egg-yolk coated dish, you must try it. It’s so rich, salty, and good! The egg yolks are preserved in salt, then mashed up to be part of a batter coating. It adds a whole new dimension of flavor to a dish.
Crispy beef coated in a sweet-ish sauce. The beef still stays crispy! I thought I ordered this spicy, but it came out plain/non-spicy. Good, but I think I like the kick of heat to even out the sweetness.
And (free) dessert because of Chinese New Year! What a pretty plate of fruit. Great way to end the meal.
There were 6 of us, and we wound up at about $20 per person before tip for all that food. There’s still time to grab a few friends together and try some awesome specials to ring in the Year of the Horse. Gung hey fat choy!
Want fresh handmade dumplings? Northeast Dumpling House is your bet for freshly made squidgy dumplings. I think they still have some kinks to work out, but overall they’re a nice new addition to the Chinese food scene in Albany. Here are my experiences on two recent visits:
Woodear and cucumber on the left (aka cucumber & black fungus $5.99) and boiled dumplings on the right.
I went with about 6 other people on this first trip – you want to bring a large group when you go to Northeast Dumpling House because there are 15 dumplings to each order. It’s kind of a crazy-large amount and it’s kind of weird that there isn’t a smaller amount available. Boiled dumplings are $7.99-8.99 and fried are $8.99-$9.99 per order. There’s beef, pork, and lamb options, and they are all pretty solid. I think my favorite so far are the pork and chive boiled dumplings.
We got an order of the spiced potato and special pancakes on Jeff’s recommendation from All Over Albany’s Eat This article. They didn’t ask us how we wanted the potatoes done (hot or cold) and they came out hot. Eh, they were okay, but they tasted pretty bland to me, even with the occasional pepper slice in there to jazz things up.
BAOS. BAOS. Get the baos when you go here. We got several orders (2 per order, $2.99) of beef baos and lamb baos. These buns were nice and squidgy (squidgy is very good when it comes to baos and dumplings), tender, fluffy soft baos, and there was a bit of juice inside each bao. They also weren’t stingy with the meat inside! I hate it when you get a big bao, and you’re all like “YEAH, bao!” and then it winds up being 90% bun with a dollop of meat inside.
You also really, REALLY want to get the Spicy Sauce & Squid ($6.99). Most of their side dish items are cold, and this is no exception. Hot pepper slices, chili oil, chili flakes, and perfectly cooked squid.
The fried beef dumplings were some of my favorite fried dumplings. I think the meat in the dumplings is a little smooth for my liking, but this is just my personal preference. I generally prefer coarse grinds of meat.
Daniel B. came up for a weekend away from New Jersey and had Northeast Dumpling House on his list. Albany John, Jon in Albany, Chef Brian Bowden and his gal, and another pair of friends joined us on a Saturday night for a festival of eating.
Daniel wanted to try the spicy potato & special pancake. I passed since it wasn’t my jam the first time around. The pancakes are cool, but I’m just not down with the potato.
We also got to try the pork & pickled veggie soup. That was really rockin’ soup, and I’m willing to bet the noodles are hand made since they’re making the dumplings to order. They were tender, but still had that delicate chew fresh noodles get. The broth was also solidly porky and balanced, although a jab of sriracha didn’t hurt.
Cucumber & dried tofu ($5.99). This was sheet bean curd, and I think this should be easy to recreate at home. Basically just tofu sheet, cucumber, carrots, chili flakes, and a dash of chili oil and vinegar. Pretty refreshing to me, but meh to others.
The beef omasum ($6.99) was another awesome dish from their cold side dishes menu. The tripe was very well prepared with just enough heat to make it interesting (I wouldn’t really call it spicy. Yes, there was a little heat occasionally, but nothing that had me reaching for the tea). The texture was both tender and chewy, if that makes any sense. Sometimes tripe can be chewy almost to the point of being like chewing gum, but this was not like that. This had something more of a tendon amount of chew to it.
The fry job on the dumplings was pretty heavy this time, lots of slick oil on the plates. We pretty much ordered one of each dumpling this time.
More spicy squid!
Another new thing we tried was the shrimp and egg boiled dumpling, which I enjoyed. The egg was pretty muted, it was more like a shrimp and veggie dumpling.
NE Dumps (my nickname for them) is still in the “new” phase. Both times I went in they were pretty dead. Which is kind of crazy for a weekend.
Here’s some areas for improvement:
Customer service – both times we had to flag down the waiter to order, then to get the checks. Tea refill on the first visit was inattentive on the first visit, and nonexistent on the 2nd visit, even though I did the “move the lid” trick to signal that we were empty. This slowness in service is also mind boggling to me, because Chinese service is usually quick, quick, quick. The dishes came out quickly once we ordered, this seems to just be a FOH issue. I’m guessing they are new to owning a restaurant and still learning the ropes as service was a little better on the 2nd visit.
Some specials listed only in Chinese. I am a “bad Chinese” and can’t read most characters, so like many of their other non-Chinese customers, I have no idea what the specials are on the board.
Consistency. The fried dumplings on the first visit were much less greasy than on the 2nd visit. The baos on the 2nd visit weren’t quite as tender as the first visit, and there was no soupy goodness inside.
Dumpling orders in quantities of 15. Orders of 8-10 would be easier for smaller groups of people to try more variety. The “Bull Paddywack” aka beef tendon is already crossed off the menu.
Cool Stuff they have going on :
No huge rush, which is different from the “turn-n-burn” style most other Chinese restaurants have, so you’ll be fine to linger at the moment.
Some really delicious dishes on the “Side Dishes” menu that aren’t on any other menu in the Captial Region. I’ve never been much of a tripe fan, but NE Dump’s take on tripe (omasum) will bring me back here to try it out.
Cheap. If you go with a group, you can order most of the menu and still walk out for under $20 per person with tip.
Hand made to order dumplings!
Meet the old micowave-oven-range combo that came with the house. I thought I’d save a few bucks by requesting the oven with house, which did work to a marginal degree – I managed to put off buying a new cooking unit for a few months and let me toss some money into other household projects in the meanwhile. Any way, this post is about the oven that was. It was epically beasty.
When I was looking around for new ovens, Sears told me that I had to tell them the outlet style, so I pulled the oven out of the wall to check. Which was a major tough one, since the previous owner had the newer pergo flooring (why, gosh, why?!) installed around the oven, which meant there was a slight lip on the ground. Combine that with the almost ZERO amount of wiggle room around the cabinets, I had to lift and pull creatively. I managed to employ a crowbar and some cardboard as a lever, but holy cow, it took me about 30 minutes just to get the oven as you see pictured above.
This is why I wanted to hustle on getting a new oven. It was clean when I moved in, and then I kept noticing metal shaving-type things on the floor of the oven. And when I looked up, oh, it turns out they WERE metal shavings. Because the ceiling of the oven was deteriorating.
Another funny thing about this oven – the range was a normal size, but it turns out the oven itself was micro-sized. I found that one out when I went to bake some cookies and the sheet wouldn’t fit one way!
Each level only had room for one cookie sheet. How crazy, right? And just everything inside was so delicate. I’m impressed that they had this oven for as long as they did, as the previous owners had 7 kids. I think this is a good two-or-three person oven, but maybe that’s a sign of how times and eating habits have changed. Still couldn’t see much of a turkey fitting in there, though.
So after I discovered the metal deteriorating issues, I figured I’d just bake stuff on the top range coils. And one of the big coils had broken. Argh.
Oh well, a burden to bear, right? So here’s what I ate a lot of leading up to getting a new oven. Steaks from Roma (and let me tell you, I love their discount section! I can just pop in every day, see what meats are nearing their end, and my dinner selection is all set. These NY strips were like $6.99/lb!)
Boiled potatoes for…
Duck fat potatoes with steak and microwaved asparagus (don’t judge me, homeownership has made me such a frozen-veggie eater lately. Okay, you can judge me).
Pan fried swai with dumplings
Mackerel from the fish monger at the Schenectady greenmarket. These two little fillets wound up only being $3.00.
And they seared up nicely, and were tasty with mashed parsnips.
Ricotta cavitelli with broccoli raab and romano.
But srsly, fish.