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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.

Pizza parties added an instant air of “cool” to any party invite when I was a kid. I don’t care what kind of pizza party it was, if pizza was involved, kids got excited. Homemade pizza party where you can make your very own pizza? COOL. Party at Pizza Hut? COOL! Party at the local pizza parlor? COOL! Parents picking up pizza from the local pizzeria for a home birthday party? COOL!

And I’m happy to say that adult pizza parties are much the same way. Adult pizza parties? No, there aren’t whips, blindfolds, and locks involved, but adults are rendered to child levels of glee and excitement at the pizza at hand. Sometimes it’s a DIY pizza party. Sometimes it’s “Come over, we need to eat massive amounts of pizza” and other times your pizza-phile friends invite you over to try some of the magic he’s been making. Jon in Albany is one such pizza-phile in the area, and he invited some of the more recent All Over Albany Tournament of Pizza judges over to taste some of the pizzas he’s been talking about. A reunion? Pizza? How does anything get much better?

20151114_163230[1]The first pizza up with a white pizza with mozzarella, creme fraiche, and sauteed baby bella mushrooms. John’s got his own propane powered pizza oven that all of us were peering in to watch the pies bake. They’re done in about two minutes.

20151114_164612[1]A traditional margherita pizza.
20151114_170137[1]The Rosa pizza. Pistachios, red onion, little bit of parmesan and that’s it. It’s a delightful combination of textures and flavors I’d have never put together before.
20151114_172405[1]Oh, and of course a buffalo chicken pizza. For old times’ sake.
20151114_174419[1]Now this was another creative pizza – topped with a thick layer of utica greens! It was nice to get a bunch of veggies all on one pie, and my first taste of these mystical Utica greens. They are escarole with some garlic and pepper, some parmesan cheese. Overall, a tasty combination.
20151114_175858[1]Jon’s favorite – the meatball bacon. I also loved this. The meatballs were great on a pie, and the bacon was a nice supporting flavor.
20151114_185210[1]It was a great night to see exactly how Jon does it, and leave us plotting and scheming, dreaming of how to get a pizza oven set up in our own homes with spousal approval.

Jon has so much dedication to this (it’s something more than a hobby at this point), and is constantly critiquing himself and his skills just get better and better. These pies were outstanding, and its pies like these that make it so difficult for me to go out to eat anywhere else in the area. Jon, thank you for having everyone over and giving us a glimpse into your pizza world!

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Jon in Albany and his family have an annual beef slaughter. He has some great, informative posts on the whole process. You can see some here. He was generous enough to give me a rib roast in the winter, as the next slaughter was coming up and he didn’t see his family eating it before the next slaughter. I thankfully accepted, and hoarded it until now. It was a gorgeous 4-bone roast of well marbled beef. Man, I’m happy to be friends with Jon in Albany. I get pizza and rib roast delivered to my door.

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Seriously – this is such a nice thing to give to someone. A rib roast from a cow your family raised and slaughtered. This is one of the best cuts of the cow to me, and I’m so lucky Jon thought of me.

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I wanted to treat this roast with the respect it deserved. I generously rubbed it with some kosher salt, pepper, and dry mustard. That’s it.

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Then I let it sit in the fridge for a few days to age just a bit and get some of that seasoning in the meat. And then I forgot to take any more pictures. But I roasted it at 200F (not on convection, just regular bake) for about 3 hours until it came to 120F, then let it keep at 100F on the warm function until it was time to eat it. It was so good – mainly rare to medium rare, with the end 1/4″ being a bit crusted over and seasoned. I was so happy I nailed it. I realized it had been a while since I cooked a beef rib roast and I was so happy to use the slower method. I just feel like slower cooking methods tend to work better for me. I’ll never be a chef, but I can on occasion be a pretty decent meal maker at home.

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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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