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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.
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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).
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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.
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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.
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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.

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Hodgson Mill posted a recipe for “Gluten Free Baked Beignets“. I used quotes because there is no way you can all these beignets in any way, shape, or form.¬† However, they are perfect as gluten-free scones. Not as light as wheat-based scones, but pretty decent for coconut flour scones. Hodgson Mill took my criticism well on Twitter. But seriously, don’t confuse these for beignets. It’s like calling a dinner roll a funnel cake. Two completely different things.

I don’t have any issues with gluten, but I will jump on any recipe that uses coconut flour. I can’t get enough of the stuff.

Baking in my Bathing Suit has been gluten-free lately, and she came over to help me make these.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

2T Warm Water
1 t yeast
1/2 t sugar
(Proof the three above ingredients if you want, otherwise just toss it all together)

1 C Gluten Free AP Flour
1/2 C Coconut flour
2 T Sugar
1 t baking soda1/2 t xanthan gum
3 T coconut oil, melted
1/2 C milk
1 t lemon juice
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract

Combine all of the dry stuff, then drizzle in the melted coconut oil and mix so it evenly distributes and looks kind of clumpy. Then add in the liquids (including the proofed yeast, if not, toss in the yeasty trio now). Mix well.
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Here’s what it looks like when it’s all combined and mixed. Then you cover it and let it rise for about an hour.

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Put some parchment paper on the baking sheet you intend to use. Sprinkle with some gluten free flour
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Plop the risen dough on this sheet, then knead/fold it for a little while so the dough comes back together.

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Then roll it out into as much of a rectangle as you can make, he he. (Straight lines are not my strength)

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Then cut into triangles. Or however you want them shaped.

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Spread them out a bit on the parchment-lined pan. Then cover and let them rise another +/-30 minutes. (note: I made these in winter, so my house is cooler and a 30 minute rise time is normal. In the summer this may be reduced to less than 30 minutes)
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Here’s how they look after poofing for a half hour. Wow, lookin’ pretty scone-y.
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And here they are fresh out of the oven. 400F until the edges just start to get a slight tan. I think this was about 8 minutes for my in my convection oven.
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Figured I’d try them tossed in powdered sugar in the spirit of beignets. Also because these aren’t very sweet.
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They looked pretty, but you can leave the powdered sugar off your own. Not much stuck to them.
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But these gluten free scones were great with some freshly macerated fruit!

 

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Talk about a sweet week – on Sunday R came by with a whole bunch of delicious salted salmon roe from her trip to Mitsuwa the day earlier. Mitsuwa is one of those place I keep meaning to travel to. Any way, R hooked me up with a whole bunch of these roe for $34.99/lb!

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Delicious briny roe! I can’t find any salmon roe up here. The Asian Supermarkets have flying fish roe, but they’re not really well packaged and their turnover is poor, so the quality and flavors can be off. I was thisclose to sucking it up and paying $125/lb for a pound of salmon roe shipped from a website, so this was SUPER duper awesome!

Thanks R!

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And today R from Chopsticks Optional dropped off Monteal Banh Mi and Vietnamese cake from her mom! What a lucky girl with awesome friends I am!

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These were awesome banh mi. Albany John and I wolfed the first one down, but the second one we toasted on R’s suggestion and OMG, that brought the crisp crust back to perfect levels. Banh mi is all about the bread.

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Pandan, coconut, and mung bean cake! So delicious.

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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:

First visit:

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Woodear and cucumber on the left (aka cucumber & black fungus $5.99) and boiled dumplings on the right.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2nd Visit:

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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 :
BYOB

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!

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Daniel B. was in town for 24-ish hours from NJ and couldn’t help but arrange a mini tour of Disco Fries (fries, cheese, gravy). Chopsticks Optional also joined us! I was surprised by how many places use a cheesey sauce with their disco fries, and found out I am more partial to places that use just shredded cheese.

Our first stop was Junior’s, which I tend to find pretty “meh” and these fries lived up to that reputation. They started off looking pretty decent, if a bit sparse on the gravy (which was fine, because it tasted like jarred Heinz gravy).

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But closer inspection revealed cheese sauce underneath. Felt kind of like a cheeze dupe. Hey, here’s shredded cheese. Just kidding! Here’s some sour-tangy cheeze sauce. This was my least fave.

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Bomber’s was our 2nd visit, and my 2nd favorite.
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Hill Street Cafe had two gravy options – beef and turkey. So we obviously chose both. Holy neon cheeze, batman! This was the beef, which I thought tasted pretty made-from-powder-y.
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Turkey gravy fries were more of my preference. The fry job was really awesome on these fries, and they were the only location on the tour to use steak fries. But they stayed crispy the whole time! The gravy and cheeze also blended into its own thing. Kind of interesting. While these disco fries weren’t my favorite, the fry job is going to pull me back to try more stuff at Hill Street.
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The Ruck! These were my favorite, but I pretty much love everything at The Ruck. The fries got majorly soggy, but the gravy was the best of the bunch (it tasted like real gravy instead of instant gravy), and the pepper jack cheese was also a really awesome touch.

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I did find the one thing at the Ruck I really, really don’t like, and it’s their Bloody Mary ($6). They took my twiticism (criticism via twitter) well and let me know it was from BP Brewing mix. Here’s why I didn’t like it: I asked the bartender for a Bloody Mary with extra horseradish and there was no visible horseradish in my drink. It was spicy, but the notes were a peppery heat and not the awesome nasal heat that horseradish brings. I’m surprised by this service blip from The Ruck – I expect better from them. This not the norm for service at the Ruck, which is why it stood out for me. Not for a bartender to hear “extra horseradish” and translate it to “spicy”. The BP Brewing Bloody Mary mix also has a strong celery flavor, which I really hate. So if you like celery and pepper, then this is the bloody mary for you, but for me it was pretty much full of all of the flavors I don’t like. I could only manage a few sips of this before throwing in the towel.

However, BBQ hot wings made everything better. Crispy skin, and that BBQ hot sauce is awesome. What? We had people there who had never been to the Ruck and tried their wings. And I have poor impulse control. Also, more people means I can order wings and they can help me eat it. Also The Ruck.
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The final stop on the tour was O’Toole’s, which has a Sunday special of 1/2 off all appetizers (which disco fries don’t fall under). These seemed to be covered in nacho cheese sauce, and a sparse amount of bay leaf & thyme flavored turkey gravy.

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Sometimes you need to get away from it all. Sometimes the location is important, but sometimes it’s the people that help you reset. Fall 2013 has been one heck of a doozy for me. Being an adult is a wonderful thing, but sometimes responsibilities and things like that toss in a few complications. I’d been planning on visiting Daniel in Princeton, NJ for a few weeks, and by the time I got there it was exactly the mental reset I needed. You can read his account of our adventures here.

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I left Albany Saturday morning, and by the time I got through all of the craptacular NJ traffic (seriously, it was smooth sailing until exit 17 on 87S, then a bunch of eye rolling until I got to Princeton) it was time for lunch. Greasy and so-bad-but-so-good sounded good to me, so Hoagie Haven it was!

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I loved the interior – one big open space with a menu and chips on the left, and the ordering line up front. You could customize any order you wanted, and they had a cute menu of their own custom sandwich combos.
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Daniel suggested we go with sandwich halves, which was a good call. Like, a really good call. Each half was about the size of my forearm. Dan and I split a Sanchez (fries, chicken cutlet, mozzarella sticks, cheese, special sauce) and a Wakeup Call, which is more of a breakfast sandwich that Dan customized as eggs, bacon, cheese, pork roll, .hash browns, and mozzarella sticks (mozz sticks in place of their “steak” slices). And we also got fried mac and cheese. The kiddos split a half sub which was a Sanchez, but with marinara sauce in place of the sweet sauce we got.

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Overall, the kids deemed the mac & cheese better than their sub, which I have to agree with. Those were freakin awesome fried triangles of mac and cheese. Just the right amount of crunch exterior and creamy interior. Get the mac and cheese bites from Hoagie Haven.
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We paired the subs with River Horse Hop Hazard beer.
The Sanchez. Meh. Not my thing. The sauce was way too sweet, and the fries were too heavy and didn’t add anything to the sub. The chicken cutlet was okay because it was meat, and how do you not like meat? But overall, just “meh” in terms of sub. Thank goodness Dan also got the wakeup call so I wouldn’t forever judge his select sub shop with a raised eyebrow. The wakeup call was pretty freaking awesome. Hash browns are a way better sandwich choice than fries at Hoagie Haven. If you see fries, just swap them for hash browns. But no, the pork roll, bacon, and eggs were pretty tasty. I didn’t think the mozzarella sticks added much flavor on either sandwich, which was pretty disappointing and weird that they didn’t add much flavor.
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After lunch, the food coma started to set in, so Dan made some of his super sugary Cuban coffee for me.
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The mixing of the espresso with some sugar, turning it into a creamy fluff of sorts.
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The pour

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Bam, energy shot in a glass
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And then, get this, we went for a WALK after coffee time! I know! The Veal of People wanted to go for a walk. I am so happy for the exercise addition in his life!

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Princeton’s grounds are beautiful.

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Okay, enough of walkies, let’s get back to food. We went for two dinners, because that’s how we roll. The first place was Papa’s Tomato Pies.

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There was a magician at Papa’s, which the kiddos enjoyed, and was a nice distraction from the relatively short wait until our plain cheese pie came out. From what I can tell from this brief experience, Tomato Pie is kind of like a really thin (crackery) crust pizza with chunky tomato sauce, or chunks of sweet tomato sharing the spotlight with cheese.

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Papa’s crust was nicely thin. Not quite crackery, but quite ephemeral on its own. Papa’s tomato pie had a very short half-life in terms of enjoyability. The first slice was great. The second slice just a few minutes later was firmer and less enjoyable than the first as it cooled off. Still enjoyable, but just not as good as the first slice.
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Our second stop was DeLorenzo’s, which had one hell of a wait, and one hell of an inefficient hostess. The waiters were all taking peoples names and putting them on her list, telling her to seat people quicker. Yikes. And for some reason, she just kept telling the servers to wait, and slowly seating people. It was a weird experience. I’ve never seen waiters so openly tell the hostess they could handle more tables, and to seat more people.

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DeLorenzo’s pie was more of a crackery-crisp crust, which Dan and I preferred. The kids deemed Papa’s pie to be their preference of the two.

Compared to Papa’s the atmosphere at DeLorenzo’s was more chaotic – lots of TVs, bright lights, and not much in the way of noise control. It was a little overwhelming for me. BRIGHT LIGHTS, LOUD SOUNDS, AND PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. Bit the pie was a nice crackery crust, and the tomatoes shone through.

Prices for both of the pies were in the $13 range. Not expensive, but I could see an adult eating a whole pie with ease.

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Then we were off for two desserts for our two dinners. First up was The Halo Pub, which is an ice creamery and not a pub.

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I got a scoop of peanut and cashew praline. The cashew was really good. The peanut, eh. This was only like, $2.50 for the ice cream, though!

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Then it was off to the Bent Spoon. I suppose you could call the Halo Pub an old school institution. Lots of wood everywhere. The Bent Spoon would be like the hipster child of the Bent Spoon. They had banana “ice cream” and more non-traditional flavors than the Halo Pub (but Halo Pub had more selection).

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Wall of hard to read flavors (for old people. I could read them just fine).
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Flavors for the sampling! These seemed more like gelato than ice cream by how they had them displayed.

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I got their Wild Turkey & caramel flavored ice cream, along with the very locally sourced NJ pumpkin and NJ mascrapone ice cream. They were both so good. Expensive, but so good. Something like $4 for this small ice cream. But really good. Like, I couldn’t pick a favorite between the two. They just nailed those flavors.

One of my favorite moments here was when Little Miss Fussy almost started crying. Why? Because she was full and sad that she couldn’t finish her ice cream. So freaking cute.

So then we went and slept off our foodings. To prepare for more foodings the next morning:

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Nino’s Pastry Shoppe for their icing filled donut. Which Dan said was more of a frosting sandwich, so of course I was all in.

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Their portions were enormous. Every good here was gigantic.
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Then it was off to the Eet Gud Bakery. Love those signs.
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Also very large portions.
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Here are the sweets we got from Nino’s: frosting-FILLED donuts, cream puffs, and cookies for the kids. The cream puffs were pre-filled, but maintained crisp exteriors. Nice job.
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We may have gone a little crazy at Eet Gud. So many things just looked so gud, though.
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So here is Nino’s frosting-filled donut on the left, and Eet Gud’s frosting-filled donut stick on the right. Nino’s frosting had more of a buttery feel to the filling, but it wasn’t great butter, so it had a bit of a greasy lingering thing going on in your mouth after you ate it. Not too sweet, either.

Eet Gud’s donut stick was my favorite of the two similar donuts. A slight shell of an exterior on the donut, cushy interior, and a sweet, thick frosting inside. Nice textural differences. Dan preferred Nino’s to Eet Gud’s for those same reasons, haha. He liked the softness of the whole dougnut and wasn’t a fan of the different textures of Eet Gud’s donut.

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Raspberry filled donut on the left, “mango” on the right. I say “mango” because that filling seriously tasted like Pez. There was no mango in there, but a whole lotta Pez.

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Pumpkin filled on the left, custard on the right. The pumpkin was awesome. Mixing the pumpkin with their frosting, Eet Gud churned out a donut with a great pumpkin flavor and a mousse-like texture filling. The custard on the right was like a Boston cream, but without the chocolate.

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I wasn’t a huge fan of the custard. It was kind of weak in the flavor department, so this was my wee dreg of donut.

And then I drank an entire pot of coffee, filled up with some cheap NJ gas and was on my way to Flushing, NY to see my uncle.

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Baking Suit invited me over for a night of gluten free pizza and girly shennanigans. Pizza? Shennanigans? I’m in.
Two kinds of pizza were had that day. Well, two different kinds of pizza crusts. And toppings.

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First up was Bob’s Red Mill. This crust required a lot of baking time (much more than it said on the package) in order to get it crispy and more pizza crust-like. The edges crisped up, the parts under the cheese were still a bit soft. Decent for a gluten-free option. Didn’t really taste “off” or weird.

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My favorite was the Bisquick gluten-free crust, though! This pizza was also white, which is one of my favorite pizza types, with red-wine mushrooms (Baking Suit’s family recipe). So good! The gluten free Bisquick crust was REALLY good. But maybe not really like a pizza. More like a biscuit crust. So buttery and delicious. But it didn’t taste gluten free at all. Had all the properties of Bisquick with gluten in it. I want 80,000 of these pizzas every week.

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I love the internet! One of my favorite bloggers, Wide Lawns, traded some of my young apples for some of her mangoes from her tree in Florida!

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First of all, I could smellthe fresh mangoes when they arrived and I opened the box. I can never seem to smell mangoes when they’re from the grocery store.

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These were so juicy and delicate. Very pronounced mango flavor, with a delicate floral finish (just a teensy hint).

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That was a good week for dessert and breakfast. Mmm. Fresh mangoes.

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The Tour de Gelato. I survived. Daniel B. tried to kill us all, one scoop at a time. It started off bright and early at Crisan at 10:30 AM. I know.

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I was glad Albany John left me solo that weekend, because he would have immediately demanded I get a purse exactly like StanfordSteph’s.

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Crisan had a dozen flavors stocked and ready for the hot weekend. The Profussor tried to corral us into making our own category of flavor, so being the great friend that I am, I labeled mine “whatever the hell I feel like”, which wound up being Mango/Tropical Fruit. You were encouraged to get 2 scoops/flavors at each place.

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Crisan’s yogurt-based mango lassi gelato on top. So tart and mango-y. Loved it. Not too sweet at all. I’ve also been on a crazy yogurt kick for the past few months, so pretty much anything with yogurt in it wins for me.

The scoop on the bottom was Honey Pear, which was a unique flavor that many other Tour eaters were curious to try. I quite enjoyed it and thought it would go well with other desserts (cookies or pie). The honey and pear flavors were subtle, which I appreciated.

Cost: $2 per scoop, $4 total

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Stop #2 was Eugenio’s in Saratoga Springs. We managed to find parking pretty easily on a sunny day in Saratoga.

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Plenty of flavors here to choose from.

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Mango on the bottom, salted caramel on the top for me. The salted caramel was on the unpleasant side. Initially it was fine, but there was a weird almost play-doh like aftertaste.

Mango was okay, but both of these reminded me more of ice cream than gelato. Still, fairly serviceable stuff.

This was a small, and was $4.99, or 10% off for Yelpers who checked in.

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The Profussor went with strawberry, and was greeted with this neon-pink number.

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Stop #3 was Villa Italia in Schenectady (man, this was so much driving!).

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I think Villa Italia had the prettiest display. Piled high, and so clean and pretty!

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No mango here, but I went with pineapple & coconut (so, basically gelato pina colada!). Holy moly, the pineapple was really good. I’m usually not a fan of fruity ice cream/gelato, but these weren’t too creamy – lots of fresh fruit flavor shone through.

Cost: $3.29 for a small

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Civitello’s was stop #4 and a bit of a clunker.

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By the time we arrived, the bakery section looked like it had done well earlier in the day (not much left in the cases).

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They had mango and coconut here, and I split this one with a fellow Tour eater. Cost for a small: $3.50. It was very gummy, like a lot of sugar syrup was used. Kind of more like a creamy Italian ice than gelato.

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Fruits of the forest got a thumbs down by another Tour eater. It was kind of like blue raspberry flavor, and also more like an Italian ice than gelato.

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Sage Bistro was the final stop.

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They had a lot to choose from.

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Mango on the bottom, salted caramel on the top. $4.05 for this small.

The salted caramel was okay, tasted more like regular caramel to me.
Mango was fine, too.

I was surprised to see mango as gelato in so many places. It was a rather refreshing flavor, and made for eating about 2 lbs of gelato disturbingly easy.

DSCF5531Head to shining rainbow for their unlimited/all you can eat hot pot. $20 per person, and $10 per pot. Reason? :: celebrate Sandor’s birthday!

 

DSCF5532Shaved beef, lamb, shrimp on skewers (a bit mineral-y), endless plates of squid, fried tofu (freshly fried!), and fish cakes. Plus peanut, hoisin, and chili sauce in a container ta make your own sauces. It was a good night for gluttony. I think the last 30 minutes were just the rest of the a label watch Albany John and me stuff our faces with food. Squid squids ! So good!

 

And then finish the night off at Wolff’sDSCF5535

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