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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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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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