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What do adults do? Throw tea parties with copious amounts of sweets, of course. At least, that’s how I adult. I spent the better part of a week off and on over the course of a month prepping cookies and cakes. Wanna know how to whip out a tea party with the majority of the foods baked the morning of? Prep everything ahead of time. I made cookie dough and froze it in 32 oz yogurt tubs. I cut and froze scones. Baked them all off in the morning. I baked cakes ahead of time and decorated them that morning (defrosted), too. You can also prep frosting a few days ahead of time, too. Prep, prep, prep!

Above we have red velvet cookies (with white chocolate chips); gluten-free, vegan quinoa raisin cookies; and below we have savory garlic chive scones.
Behind them is a white cake with guava paste filling, and vanilla buttercream. So moist!
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Matcha green tea “blondies” or “brownies” with white chocolate chips. Super fudgy and not too sweet.
Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies courtesy of R.
Sweet scones.

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Mudslide cake with kahlua chocolate and irish cream frostings. So much frosting. I used a recipe from Butter Baked Goods – holy cow, that’s an awesomely moist chocolate cake.
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Quince jam shortbread bars on the top, and more garlic chive scones on the bottom. By the by – I made these tiered tea stands using some old plates from a thrift store, and some hardware from Amazon. Super easy, and super cute!
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Daniel B was a champ and drove up to TC Bakery for their last retail day and picked up an array of treats: Paris-Brest.
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Berry tart
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Famed lemon tart, and a bunch of macarons after I had lamented earlier that my house was too humid to make macarons so that they wouldn’t be on the menu. So sweet.

Overall, the older I get, the more I realize that adulting doesn’t have to be all about paying your bills and saving for retirement. I suppose the reality is that things are always changing. People age. They have kids. You buy a house in the ‘burbs. But you can still have bursts of whatever you think is fun in between all of that responsible adulting. And the best part is having lots of people to share these fun times with.

Wow, the Tavern Pizza Tour was in February? Where does the time go. It seems my days cannot have enough hours lately. Yikes. Any way, The Fuss Man organized a small outing of folks to go eat pizza at a bunch of taverns. I like these epic afternoons because it really lets you compare different places all in one day.

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First up with Hill Street Cafe. This place has never really stuck out for me, but zomg, now I really want their pizza. It is a pizza I am incapable of making at home, mainly because I don’t think I can use the amount of oil they use in their crust in good conscience. The pizza was baked on a screen, which let any extra oil they oiled the screen with, plus the oil from the pizza fry the end crust into this delicious piece of heaven. Seriously, so good. And there was a ton of cheese. It was a hearty pizza, the crust flopped under the weight of the cheese and toppings.

Then somehow I forgot to take a picture at Deacon Blue’s.  We got the scampi pizza, which was okay, but would probably have been better with a few less seafood toppings (like the fake crab). Put that one on  the “maybe return to” list.
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Next up with the Purple Pub, where I was the lone dissenter against their pizza. What did we get? Mushroom & sausage? Dan B. is convinced I hate onions in sauce, but I love onions, so I think it’s something else. For me, there was too much crust, and just a smattering of cheese. Ah well, no matter, more pizza to taste.
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Ralph’s Tavern! Pepperoni and mushroom. I love how they crisped up a lot of the pepperoni (my ideal kind of ‘roni). I like Ralph’s. They have a soft, but still pretty thin crust (as thin as tavern crusts get) that stays crisp on the exterior, but soft inside. Good ratio of cheese-sauce-toppings. And man, try their mozzarella sticks if you’re in there.
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Last stop was Smith’s Tavern out in Voorheesville. We got the Villager, which was comprised of a lot of toppings that are not my favorite, so I’d like to go back and try it again.

I suspect I am not a fan of the ultra-poofy style round tavern crusts and more of a rectangular tavern pizza kind of gal. Unless you basically fry your crust in oil (Hill Street Cafe), and then I love you above everything else.

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There are many perks to living in Latham. Close to a bunch of grocery stores, bikeable, my favorite restaurant, and now I can add “Best Pizza Delivery in the Area” to the list. Jon in Albany, our local pizza expert. He will deny such a title bestowed upon him, I have yet to meet another person with as much knowledge and passion for pizza. Also, he is incredibly scientific in his pizza making processes, which I appreciate immensely. He texted me one night asking if I was home and if I wanted pizza. The answer to either of those is generally yes, if you’re curious.
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I was rewarded with TWO KINDS OF PIZZA delivered right to my door. IN BOXES, even! First one was pepperoni, which was… perfect. And has now officially ruined me from any more take out pizza in Latham. The crust was so perfectly burnished, and light and fluffy on the inside. The perimeter of the pepperoni were also nicely crisped up.

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SAUSAGE! Oh, delightful sausage pizza. I managed to not eat both pizzas in one sitting. And these were so good, so this was harder than you’d think.

Dear Jon,

Thank you very much for your delicious delivery pizza. Next time I’ll have a tip ready.

You may not have realized how much of a monster you’ve created now.

XOXO,
AJ

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Deanna Fox is an amazing woman – she recently whipped up brunch for a few folks when Innae was in town.  LOOK AT THE TABLE! It is so beautiful!
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When I walked in to her beautiful farm kitchen, I peeped her hash-making skills.
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Squee – table of deliciousness! I seriously love the foliage.
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A stack of fluffy cheddar dill biscuits.
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Citrus salad. Oh, the effort that goes in to delicately peeling these.
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Apple Cider Doughnut Bread Pudding, which in my circle of friends, seems to be pretty popular this year. Fall 2014’s new it-dessert?
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Soon it was time for us all to sit around and chat, chat, chat while we ate, ate, ate. When I was a kid I remember HATING how long the adults would take just sitting around the dinner table TALKING about stuff that wasn’t Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sesame Street, or Disney movies. But now I get it – there’s SO much to talk about it. So much to catch up on, and just plain giggling and joking to have because we don’t see each other all that often.
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I’ll take one of everything, please! Just the night before I’d made a maple ice cream with burnt caramel swirl that went really well with the apple cider doughnut pudding. And a lovely gram masala muffin, too!
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And since we were just coming off of the final Tournament of Pizza , and Innae was a previous pizza judge, Deanna made breakfast pizza with puff pastry! Food friends, and tons of French press coffee. Love it!

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I’m always game for a road trip (especially when it involves food), so when Daniel suggested a detour into Old Forge, PA to try their pizza styles I jumped at the chance. We were armed with suggestions from NEPA Pizza Review, and off we went.  I just kind of tagged along with Daniel and his crazy list of must-try pizza places.

Northeastern Pennsylvania style pizza is unlike any I’ve ever heard of before. It reminds me of a cross of french bread pizza, Elio’s frozen pizza, and hot pockets. There are three different styles: red (tomato sauce + cheese), white (just cheese) & white stuffed crust (just white, but with a top crust of dough plus the bottom crust.
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First up was a tomato & garlic white pie at Colarusso’s. The bread dough was vaguely focaccia-y and the cheese was more of a cheese sauce. Order by the pies here.
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$8.00 for a pie, though the menu listed a higher price for white pies over tomato pies. Any way, first pie down and we were off to the next stop!
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Salerno’s was up next. It’s a dark bar right next door to a funeral home, but yay, it has its own parking lot.
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We put in the order for two cuts of stuffed white. About 20 minutes later, we got these ridiculously cheap cuts (they call them “cuts” not “slices” in NEPA). Each cut was like $1.50 or $1.75. Crazy cheap. The bottom crust was soggy, but the top crust was almost pastry-like and flaky, and the thin burnished onion on top was nice. The cheese itself was fairly flavorless and had a gluey texture.
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Third stop was Arcaro & Genell, a restaurant whose name I’m still not entirely sure how to pronounce. This was definitely the ritziest restaurant of the tour. Very clean and well maintained inside, solid tables, and I think there was even a bocce ball court out front.
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We went with a red, a white, and a white broccoli. The white at Arcaro & Genell was of the stuffed variety. This was probably my most enjoyable overall cut of the entire trip. The cheese had a little bit of mozzarella, which added some stretchy texture and salt to the cheese sauce. The crusts were fairly crisp, but not as pastry-like as Salerno’s. The broccoli was enjoyable – still a bit crunchy and fresh, plus a hearty kick of garlic.
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So cheap. It took about 15-20 or so minutes to heat up these slices. I’m guessing most folks don’t just order a cut or two.
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Revello’s – the clunker of the day.
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Anazalone Special Lager – said it was local, so I wanted to give it a try. The first sip was refreshing, but after that it was like PBR & Budweiser. Basically like metal shavings. Not my fave. Thankfully the fussman helped me with this beer.
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The long-reheat times seemed to be a thing with NEPA style cuts, but Revello’s wins for longest wait. 30 minutes from order to table, and we were one of the only tables. The cuts were gummy and easily skippable. The red slice reminded me exactly of Elio’s frozen pizza. We got a white & a white broccoli. The broccoli was gummy and mushy.
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Ghigiarelli’s was the final NEPA pizza stop.
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Hmm, wonder what they use for their sauce?
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The red cut here featured a lot of tomato flavor, but somehow they transformed canned into a refreshing & bright (not metallic) flavor. Lots of onions in the sauce as well. Took about 20 minutes for the slices to come out, which is just so crazy cheap for the amount of time a patron sits in the restaurant taking up space. Overhead must be low in PA.
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ICE CREAM BREAK
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Fro-yo, actually. And this was a small. A SMALL. And they said people complain that their smalls are TOO SMALL. What madness is this? It was close to a pint for like $2.50.
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A few hours later we were in Oneonta, just in time for a few more slices. I was initially grossed out at the thought of cold cheese on pizza, but hey, I was game to try it, and the NEPA style pizzas hadn’t been my jam, so what’s another slice or two?
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Tino’s is the alleged inventor of cold cheese pizza. The slice itself was just okay. But the cheese strands on top were way too thick and bland. Kind of like play-doh noodle thickness. It didn’t melt at all on the reheated slices, and was just a heavy addition that detracted from the slice.
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And then we strolled Oneonta’s cute main strip. The Fuss man wouldn’t indulge my request to go into the Novelty Lounge, citing depressing reviews. But dude, LOOK AT THAT SIGN! And a 23+ age limit. Sigh. Next time.
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The final slice du jour was at Sal’s, which we shared because someone who wasn’t me was starting to get full. Sigh. Fine. This was actually a much nicer iteration of cold cheese pizza. Flavorful crisp slice below, and thin shreds of salty mozzarella that melted over time into the slice. I think I’m still personally more of an extra-cheese-over-cold-cheese type gal, but this was a nice way to round out the night.

If you told me when I was a kid that I’d grow up to spend a summer eating pizza I’d have thought you were fooling me.

Last weekend Jon in Albany and his two kiddos drove down to Princeton with me to eat as many tomato pies with Daniel B. as we could. The tomato pie is native to NJ. It is a dainty, delicate pizza compared to NY-style pizzas. The crust is incredibly thin, and the main star of the pie is the tomato, which usually plays second or third fiddle to the other components of a pizza (crust, cheese) in NY.

It was a whirlwind trip full of tomato pie goodness. I’m lucky to have such awesome folks in my life who are willing to ditch their real lives and go have foodventures with me.

Jon’s write up is here. Daniel B.’s is here.

A ton of pictures below:

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First up was Gennaro’s. This was probably the most upscale setting of the tour. Cloth napkins, and waiters dressed in blacks.
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We were some of the first customers of the day. Gennaro’s had the best tomatoes of the day (to me). So freshly sweet without seeming cloying. Jon took an “accidental” detour through the kitchen and saw that they were using canned tomatoes. We would all love to know how they got them to taste so fresh.

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Crust was okay. A nice and crackery crust. Overall, this was a solid example of tomato pie and probably my favorite of the day if I had to pick one.

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Halo Pub was literally right next door, so we made a stop in. You may have read Daniel wax poetic about this place, and it really is a well-priced gem. I would really love to get a look at their business plan and financials. I am really intrigued by how they can stay in business with the quality they have, overhead, and such low prices.

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The Halo Pub van, restocking the ice cream stores from the farm. Golden cow on top. Sadly, I opted against ice cream since I saw they had soft serve, which they make on the farm, but it had just opened so it hadn’t had a chance to freeze and solidify.
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Pizza stop # 2 was good old Papa’s.
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Daniel and I were able to cross off the (half) anchovy mustard pie off our bucket lists. Mustard pies are a specialty of Papa’s, and well… I was imagining something different in my head. The reality of this pie is a swirl of mustard around the crust, and then the toppings laid as normal. I don’t really see the appeal, or what it really adds to the pie. It was something different to try for certain.

The mustard with anchovy was pretty decent, but the mustard pie plain/just cheese was pretty ho-hum. I don’t need to try it again.
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Half sausage, half plain. This came out a bit more burnished than the mustard pie. I brought some home for Albany John, and he declared the sausage very good as well. Papa’s reheated the best out of all of the tomato pie’s.
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Corleone’s. Oh, Corleone’s. Clunker. Skippable. Friendly folks, but not very good pies.
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Well, okay, their pizza was decent if a bit lackluster. Guess who was in charge of ordering and completely screwed it up and ordered a pizza? (WHAT? I’m from New York! It’s a reflex!).
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The deep fried calzone was on the list, though. $6.95, and the fried calzone came out looking like a burnished football.
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Daniel B stabs at it to divide it up.

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Full of ricotta, and a bit of mozzarella. I could have used a bit more mozzarella, as it was fairly heavy on the ricotta. But the fry job was spot on and deceptively light and ephemeral in an “oh god, this cannot be healthy” kind of way.
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The menfolk and the children tapped out after a few bites, so I ate a little over half of a football of fried calzone by myself. What? I love cheese and fried things. It wasn’t the greatest thing in the world, but it was pretty darned good for what it was.
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And then the tomato pie came out. Weaksauce. The tomatoes were too sugary-sweet, and the crust had major tip sag (as in, couldn’t even get it flat, so soggy and sad). Very bland, too. This reheated very poorly and when reheated the cloying sweetness in the tomatoes became more pronounced.

But I was drunk on deep fried calzone, and as I bade farewell to the counter dude, he told me I’d be ready for a nap. 10 minutes later I was glad Daniel B was hauling us around.
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But thankfully we made a stop at the Yardley Ice House for some water ice. Which is like Italian ice, but with a finer grain.
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I went with a “small” key lime pie. I don’t know how people can eat more than a small. It was tart, sugary, and refreshing. Enough to perk me and my growing pizza baby of a stomach up.
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The final stop of the tour was La Villa, which served more of a PA-style tomato pie.
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Rather garlicky, but pleasant in its own right. I don’t think I’d call it a true tomato pie like the Trenton/NJ pies are, but it was a good one.

I can’t believe how full I was after only a few stops, but then again, I did eat over half of a massive deep fried calzone on my own. I am blaming that calzone for taking up way too much space in my stomach and not leaving more room for pies.

This trip was just what I needed to recharge my batteries. Getting out of town for a day, doing something crazy with friends (don’t tell me it’s sane to decide to drive 8 hrs RT in one day to go eat some tomato pies). It’s just fantastic being around other pizza obsessives and, well, geeking out over the variations and nuances of each pie. I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert, but when you’re around people all day who have a lot of the same passions that you do, well, it’s just so darned refreshing. Extroverts, I think I kind of get part of what makes you tick.

The drive, aside from being long, was actually really easy. No traffic either way, and Jon was an awesome navigator and brought his GPS (and also cheddar bunnies! which are as tasty as they are adorable), which came in handy when my phone decided to crap out after leaving the 518 area code and take forever to do anything (oh, phone…). The kids were angels. Seriously. Parents like Jon & Daniel (and their respective partners) make me entertain the possibility of caring for some small human child in the future.

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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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