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It’s nice to find a restaurant in Saratoga that keeps their prices sane during track season (i.e. the racing of the horsies). While I didn’t make it up to the track this year, I went up to catch the Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC one night. It was late evening after the show was over, and the group I went with was looking for a snack/meal. Druthers was our first thought, and it was nice to see that they kept their prices Saratoga-reasonable during track season (i.e. they didn’t change them to jack them up during the busy season).

Albany John went with a sampler of beers ($14) and I went with a light pint.

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Thai chicken wings for me ($11). They weren’t crispy, but the skin was a pleasantly succulent-soft without being soggy and flaccid. What was initially a bummer wound up being really pleasant for a crispy-skin lover like myself. The peanut flavor was on the mild side, and there was just a little kick of heat. It was served with homemade quick kimchee, which had red bell peppers in it (ruining an otherwise pleasant side slaw coz you guys know I dislike bell peppers).

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Albany John got a Druthers burger ($13) with greens on the side. Ordered rare, and received rare. So beefy and juicy. I had to exercise what little self control I have to not eat my good husbear’s burger, too.

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Our friend got the Mac & Cheese ($13), which I’ve seen other people order before, but never had anyone at my table order. It looks big, but once you get it in front of you… woah. It’s gigantic. And comfortingly cheesy, too. Stretchy, creamy cheese with crunchy crumbs on top.

Leisurely dinner for two during Saratoga’s high season with drinks in the $50 range? Not too shabby.

What do you do when you’re in Saratoga Springs, NY for a late-ish dinner after the opening of Badger’s Hookah Bar just a few blocks away? You hope Danika at Garnish Marketing says “I’m going to go to Druthers for a drink in a little bit. You in?” Yes. Yes yes yessity yes.

Albany John had a blast taking pics of the Druthers table at the Saratoga Wine, Food, and Fall Ferrari Festival this past September. They were happy, fun, and lively – great energy, and I meant to head around to Druthers to try their fare in-store.

A chill in the air made Albany John crave Chili Con Carne ($8), which lists habanero among its beefy ingredients, but isn’t anything overpowering, or even all that hot. Albany John was a big fan of this chili – very little fat/grease on top, and lots of deep, beefy flavor.

He also got a pint of Fist of Karma Brown Ale ($6), which he thought to be miles above Newcastle (which is one of my favorite beers lately). I dunno. I still prefer Newcastle. This was a bit hoppier & tarter.

Pasta fagioli ($6) for another friend. Vegan, even.

A rare Given My Druthers Burger ($12) for me. Cute Druthers brand on the bread bun.  I got greens on the side (you could also get fries), which were pretty heavily dressed. I’d ask for them naked next time.

Happiness is a bloody rare burger. This was pretty hefty, yet unsurprisingly I managed to finish it all. I didn’t really taste the pickled green onion or pickled shallot that the menu lists, but the chuck, short rib, and smoked pork belly. I’m glad I’ve found restaurant in the area that makes a rare burger rare and not medium-rare or medium.

Danika & her Mr. got the flight of beers on tap, which was $14 for 7 4-oz flights. The waitress was a peach & wrote out all of the beers on tap, too.

 

The Comfort Kitchen held an after hours snacking session for some local bloggers.  Many thanks to Jen for the invite! First off – location. They’re at 454 Broadway in Saratoga Springs. This is like a mini-mall. I’d never been inside before. It’s on the bottom floor.

First up were tater tots made on-site. Dude. These were awesome. Solid fry job, nicely moist & fluffy potato interior. Def get some awesome sauce with these. Yup, one of their sauces is Awesome Sauce.

 

 

 

 

Next up were black bean patties.

The chipotle mayo on here really makes this veggie burger sing. It has a ton of flavor in that one little streak, so even mayo-haters like me have to admit its deliciousness.

Non-veggie burgers up next, hee hee. Sliders – a whole tray of ‘em! Comfort Kitchen gets their meat ground every two days. Rory, the owner, also goes out to market to buy his groceries – they don’t receive deliveries by truck.

Mac & Cheese, two ways. Pulled pork on the left, 4 cheese on the right. I was digging the pulled pork mac & cheese a little more than the 4 cheese. They used rotini pasta (spirals) instead of elbows – it’s a little thicker and holds the sauce better than elbow.

 

 

Ah, true love. Mac & cheese & a slider on a potato roll.

I loved, loved, loved that there was some pink to the slider. Rory says their default for burgers is medium, so just let them know if you want them cooked more or less. The grind was great – not too fine, but smaller than sausage chunks. Tons of savory flavor, too.For dessert, they made a cheeky treat – strawberry shortcake ice cream sandwiches: Rory’s nod to strawberry shortcake ice cream on a stick that we all grew up eating as kids. YES. So good, especially the crumbs made with dehydrated strawberries.
Comfort Kitchen MenuWhile your food will be prepared by incredibly good looking people, you won’t have to sacrifice your first born to eat here. Nothing on the menu is over $9. The space is basic and clean, with some Comfort Kitchen cartoons on the walls.  They’re only open for lunch (until 7 pm), and man, after seeing tacos on the menu, I think I’ve got to mosey my way back to Comfort Kitchen and give those a shot.

I love late night dining. The Brown Bag is a lovely new late night addition to downtown Troy. Open 7 days a week from 9 pm – 6 am, it’s a great spot for some cheap eats in the wee morning hours.

$4 for a cheeseburger with meatyflavor and coarse grind. Can’t beat a hand formed patty, even if it was just the teensiest bit dry. Pickles were great, adding just the right amount of salinity.

One of the kids behind the line might wanna change his gloves though – he was touching raw burgers, then pretty much everything else in the kitchen. From burger buns to the fryer handles. But the buns went on the grill, theoretically enough to kill any potential pathogens from raw ground beef.

The guys working there were way personable, though. I think Albany John and I may have been the only two customers who were still able to drive a car, and they handled their rowdiness well.

And guess what? They also take credit cards! Awesome!

All hail the great Meyer Empire! I went to the Saratoga Race Track with Cute~Ella, Sue, GenWar, and the rest of the Cute~Ella crew. Oh, plus I dragged R & M. My mind was on burgers made of cow meat.

I think last year was the first time I was ever at the track, not being much of a horse-racing fan in general. However, I am a fan of hyped-up burgers from NYC. Well, it’s easier to get there than Shake Shack in Central Park.

I don’t mind a “day at the track”. It’s $3 per person to enter, free parking, and you can bring in your own coolers and seats. You don’t even have to go look a the horse track. It’s basically like going picnic-ing with tons of people to gawk at. And you can dress up. Win-win in my book.

Also a win-win – two double Shack Burgers ($9 each) and a Track Shake ($5.75). The shake looks small, but it’s very custard-y and rich. It’s a lot to suck down.

The burgers were so good. Glad I got doubles instead of singles. Albany John thought his was fine, and even I had trouble finishing mine off. They’re deliciously salty and beefy flavored. A bit pinky rare in the center, yet firm of exterior.

THEY ARE SO MEATY AND GOOD. SO MEATY! SO MUCH MEATY BEEFY FLAVOR!

Heads up – they show up on your credit card as “UnionStreetSportsandENT” and not something easier to recognize.

Albany John liked it, but his stomach felt a little funky later on. I guess he’s going to have to be on the Jack Sprat diet. I’ll troop through it for him somehow.

Cute hat I made a Cute~Ella’s the night before tracking. She so fancy!

Oh, and heads up – if you go, it’ll probably be elbows to asses people. Don’t really expect any personal space, but otherwise you’re good. As long as everyone’s friendly you’ll be fine. Also, their bathrooms are really quick and clean.

Yesterday I joined the AOA Crew at Ric Orlando’s New World Bistro Bar to support Dining Out for Life. Basically, 25% of the bill went to the AIDS Council of NENY. Sweet, eating out and helping out. I’ve been meaning to go here for ages, and Albany John wants to bring his brother (a big fan of the show Chopped, and the same show Ric won) here to try some of their inventive dishes.

We got the beef tongue and octopus toastada ($10) to share as an app. Get it. Ohhh, get it! So beefy and good. Albany John describes beef tongue when it’s cooked this well as akin to a really hearty beef stew. Ric – can I call you Ric? I’m gonna call you Ric. Any way, Ric, this dish really showcased your skills.
There was a good amount of beef tongue, and little minced bits of octopus throughout. It added some umami goodness, so if you’re squicky about seafood/octopus, this might be a good dish for you to try. Personally, I would be fine if this dish were just a hunk of cow tongue and an arm of uncut octopus (so good were the flavors), but bet that might put some people off.


Our waiter also mentioned this was one of his favorite dishes here, if not his favorite dish entirely. He was so freaking right. If you guys haven’t gotten the hint, try this. SO good.

Albany John’s a beer guy, so we got a flight of beers to sample. I just donated blood that day, so I figured I’d take it somewhat easy on the booze since one of the Red Cross guys told me if I went out for cocktails I’d be “One cheap date,”. I’m a cheap date to being with, and while I was partially interested in testing out just how little liquor I’d need in me to catch a buzz, it seemed like it had the potential to go from funny to “We need an IV and some fluids” pretty quickly.

Right, so. We went with the flight of beer samples ($5.25). From left to right:
Brooklyn, New World Bistro Bar Double IPA made by Chatham Brewery, Ommegang Rare Vos, and Victory Stout.
Albany John thought this was a great value, and a fun way to compare some solid brews. He loves his Rare Vos, so that was the winner for him here, but the others were still fairly enjoyable.
We’re not big IPA people, but it was cool to try their house beer. It turns out they want to get it labeled for them since it’s made for them, but they have to go through federal licensing of some sort in order to get it, so for now they just call it their house beer. I thought it tasted a lot like the Rare Vos (which made Albany John gasp and be all like “What?! NO! They are not at all alike!”) since it was on the bitter/floral spectrum. Whatevs. But I really liked that Victory stout. Really smooth, yet thin – easy to drink in warmer weather. Not dense and heavy like other stouts that drink like a meal. Plus lots of sweet caramel notes. More please.

Then on to entrees! Albany John got the Portuguese Tavern Style Pork and Clams ($24 for full portion), which seemed to be popular with our end of the table. What a full portion it was! It came in an impressively sized bowl and had a lot of clammy and porky goodness within. Albany John LOVED this dish. So good. I thought the fingerling fries were fried carrot rounds, heh. Kinda sweet.

Not spicy, either, although they dropped a bottle of Sriracha. Albany John thought about Napalming The Jungle, but it was so good that he didn’t need any other seasonings.

Mid convo with the rest of our table, a bus boy ninja came by and took his dish. He still had some food left, and he was all… “Um. What? What just happened and where did my dish go?”. We saw the bus boy and as we were going to be like “Dude! Hey! Can we get that back, please and thanks?” We saw him bussing the rest of the table and plop another dish on top of it. Ew. How do we know that wasn’t dirty? It’s a plate at the end of dinner. It’s probably dirty. When you’re bussing things, you don’t pile other peoples dishes on top of other people’s unfinished food. Well, you also should check with people when taking their food. Ironically, the bus boy asked me if I was done with my plate when it was basically just crumbs left.


Okay, so seems like not the best moment at our first time dining in this restaurant, right? Ric, you have some awesome staff, because our waiter was very attentive and handled things well. We found him and explained about the over eager bus boy. He said that he was wrapping it up, but after expressing some concern that we saw the busboy putting other people’s dishes on it, he had them remake what was taken. Perfect response. We weren’t looking for a remake on the entire meal, but we also didn’t want to eat food that may have had dirty dishes on it either.

The remake! A few clams and some pork. Very well handled, NWBB. Service that will certainly guarantee my return and recommendation of your restaurant.

I’ve been dying to try their burger ($13). I love burgers. I think a good burger needs very little accoutrements, so I just ordered mine rare. Happy beef. Burger. Yay! I got the veggie of the day, some fairly well prepared summer squash. I could have done with a few more bits, but I’ve been on a real veggie kick this year, so maybe it’s just me.

Sadly, the burger was the low note of the meal. The bun was pretty heavy (tasted like a potato roll) and over-buttered/oiled. Greasy. Can you see the crack on the northern part of the burger? There was also a crack on the other side of the burger too. What’s up with that?

It was cooked rare in the center, but progressively more toward the edges, some parts being well done. Maybe I should start ordering burgers black and blue.

This wasn’t a terrible burger. It just wasn’t a $13 burger. My first impression after taking a bite was “Bready. All I taste is bread.” The bun was somehow overwhelming.

I’m not too sure if the beef was even seasoned. It didn’t have much flavor. I’m used to happier beef having this deep, rich, wonderful beefy flavor. This was pretty light – I had to really does it up with salt to bring out some beefiness. The texture wasn’t my favorite either – a bit too small/fine of a grind, which made the more cooked edges of the burger taste kind of grainy/mealy. It was a fairly dry burger, but that greasy bun was distracting.

I found out the best way to eat it was to take a bite, but only eat the top bun (less greasy) and salt heavily. Fine, but I wouldn’t order it again. Next time I’ll get another tonge and octo tostada, or have a few other apps. Mmm.

Dessert was a shot of Nutella mousse ($4). It’s in their dessert tapas section. Pretty good stuff. Nice way to end the meal. Creamy but not heavy. Kind of on the small side for $4, but still quite enjoyable.

One of my seat mates had a less-than-stellar lemon curd shot. The flavor was great, but it had this freaky grainy texture. I really couldn’t figure out what it was. It was more chalky, so it wasn’t like it was unincorporated sugar. Really odd. This person mentioned that perhaps attention to detail was a little off at this meal. Perhaps.

Overall though, great time dining out, an excellent service experience, and I look forward to returning and trying more of the menu.

I miss the Lark Tavern.

Cheap drinks, stellar bar food, and service was always quick and friendly no matter how crowded it was. Once you’ve got Your Place it’s hard to find another one. I know Tess & crew have moved downtown to Pearl Street, but it’s such a different location, and still not quite the Lark Tavern I knew and loved.

Met up with my college pal and his fiance. We figured we’d do drinks, but also some food. Somewhere in Albany. Not Pearl Street. Not Mahar’s. Not in a wine mood, or a beer mood. Cheap would be nice, too. That’s a pretty difficult list to fulfill, as it would turn out. We wound up at Junior’s (1094 Madison Ave, Albany, NY 12208). Same strip as Mahar’s.

Drinks came out in tall glasses or cocktail glasses. $7 for call, $6 for well drinks. Not too shabby, but I would have preferred a smaller drink (bravely, I soldiered on with my bigger drink, though).

Service was great – our waitress was really friendly and nice. More like someone taking care of guests in her home than a waitress at a bar/restaurant in Albany.

I flipped my shit when I saw ‘waffle fries’ on the menu. I got the House Burger ($9.99) which had pickles, onions, swiss, bacon, mushrooms… a bunch of stuff on it that I can’t really remember now, but it was pretty decent and crazy and subbed the waffle fries for the regular fries.

Albany John got a cuban sandwich, I think? $7.99 or $8.99 for a gigantic loaf of a sandwich. Fine, but nothing mindblowing. Pulled pork, some pickles, maybe some bacon. The regular fries were good, too. Crunchy.

Most of the food, from appetizers to entrees, ranges from $8-12. It’s kind of like “Why bother with mozzarella sticks for $7, when a sandwich costs about as much?”


Close up of my house burger. 8 oz (half pound) of ground beef for $10 isn’t too bad. But they only cook them medium-rare. No rare. My burger came out a hodgepodge of doneness, though. Medium well in the center, with patches of rare and medium rare on the edges. I have no idea how they pulled that one off. I was at the very least pleased that it wasn’t a patty. It was actual ground beef and not some pre-formed frozen patty. Decent grind on it, but it sure needed some salt, even with cubed up bits of bacon on there. It was fine, but nothing to pull me back.


Once we got the bill, I was kind of like “Hunh. Oh, well, I guess we did spend that much.” Not like it was crazy-expensive or anything, but just that it was a little more than it was worth, to me at least.

So here’s my deal with Junior’s. It’s not bad. Not great. Somewhere in the middle. It was a good place for four folks to go out and grab some food and drinks and catch up. The food and drinks were fine. It served our needs. I liked the service, but overall I think I need a place that’s more than just “fine”, you know? Like, nothing on Junior’s, but I bet they could change a few things up and be really good. Right now, it’s just a place that I automatically go “Eh, it’s okay. Yeah, sure, I guess.” when one of my friends suggests it because his 21 year old girlfriend likes the cocktails they make there.

Tuesday nights are Burger Nights at The Ruck (104 3rd St, Troy, NY 12180). All burgers are $1 off after 7 pm.

Green Peccadilloes mentioned her love of the Wing Burger, and well, I had to give it a try.


But first, drinks. Albany John got the Brew Master’s Choice from Brooklyn Brewery ($5 – Although he says it’s really called something different. I have no idea). I got my usual stoli raz and club ($6). Albany John had already had a sip of his beer – they know how to pour a beer the right way at The Ruck. None of this 1 – 1.5″ foamy head business. 1/2″ of head max.



And true to form, we couldn’t just get the burgers. We also needed wings. Wing night are Monday and Wednesday nights, and one of these days I’m going to make it there, but until then it will be $7 per dozen for this gal.

I got mild wings, and they were good. Really good. They weren’t bland and orange like so many mild wings are. They had just a kick of heat, as if to suggest there was more where that came from. I’m not sure if I’ll try the medium wings, these were so pleasant to eat.

I want to work/observe at The Ruck to see their wing frying protocol. They turn out perfect every time. So crispy, yet meaty, and perfectly sauced. My ideal chicken wing.

Albany John got a cheeseburger, and I got a wing burger. We both ordered them somewhere in the medium/medium-rare area, but they both came out well done. Normally I’d bitch and complain, but these burgers are the kind that taste best when cooked rare.
The burgers themselves reminded me of the ones from Sutter’s. Pre-formed, likely frozen at some point, and shaped like ovals. Unlike the burger at Sutter’s, I enjoyed these.
I’m not really sure why they asked if they were only going to cook them well, but it seems kind of moot. This kind of burger should really only be cooked well.

The burgers came on grilled Bella Napoli rolls (poppy seed. So when you fail your pee test, you can blame the burgers you had at The Ruck the night before). Normally I don’t like non-traditional rolls, especially when they are so oversized in comparison to the burger itself, but these didn’t bother me that much since they were grilled, and I find Bella Napoli’s buns to be fairly light, airy, and unobtrusive to begin with.

Albany John said his cheeseburger was fine. My wing burger came slathered in wing sauce, and with a side of their house made blue cheese sauce. The blue cheese sauce can be a little mayo-heavy for me at times, but then again I’m a mayo-hater. But I just love all of those chunks of blue cheese in the sauce. It helped combat the heat in the wing burger. I can see why Green Peccadilloes recommended this burger. The Wing Burger was quite tasty overall. Not sure I’d drive across town for it (unlike those wings, man I would drive across the state for them!), but I’d give it an order when at or near The Ruck.

So you know how sometimes you have, like, six too many drinks the night before and the next morning you are really super hungover not at your best?

Well, I found myself in one of those moments and there are a few foods I crave when I am hungover. Namely: greasy, salty, meaty, carby (If I were Snow White, those would be 4 of my 7 dwarves. The others would be sweet, fruity, and crunchy. And maybe boozey for an 8th).

Fuddruckers is one of those places that I think is a fabulous idea when I’m hungover. So I convinced Albany John to go over to Wolf Road and get a bite with me.

He got a 1# burger combo meal to test out the waters and see if the 2# challenege would be a viable contest for him. After adding some cheese, the combo was a little over $11.


You get some fried potato wedges and a drink (domestic beer or soda) with the combo, plus a free cookie.


That burger was massive. Albany John could only eat half of it, but he said he’d rather have ordered the 1# burger and only eaten half than eaten a 1/2 pound burger.

They have some specialty burgers like buffalo, elk, and boar. I got the boar burger, which was ringing up at $0.00, so they rang me in for an elk burger at $8.99. Eh, kind of high, but it is a non-beef patty and I thought it would be neat to try. Plus I was hungover, and you know how well decision making works when all you are thinking is “Need… food…” If you can’t tell, I really like that toppings bar, and the sauces section. This was also a large patty, but was dwarfed by the size of Albany John’s gigantic burger.

One of the interesting things is that they’ll cook your burger to order at Fuddruckers. I went with medium rare, which resulted in a juicy and fine burger. Overall, I thought it didn’t taste like beef, the meat kind of mushed together on one side (see the left part of the above pic) for a weird meatloaf texture, but other than that the boar flavor wasn’t crazy and overwhelming. Just porky-ish.

I managed to finish my burger and nab some of Albany John’s fries, too. I was way better, but wayyyyy stuffed after that one. I saved the cookie for later.

Overall, I think Fuddruckers is a fun novelty with serviceable food. It’s nothing that’ll blow your socks off, but it’ll do.

Albany John randomly driving around the Cap District getting lost (anyone else like doing that?) and called me up:

John: “Hi, yeah, I’m somewhere in Rensselaer. I think. Or maybe East Greenbush.”
Jane: “Okaaay…” (I call him a lot randomly, too)
John: “I passed a laundromat, and some woods, and some animals and – woah, smokehouse. Call you back.”

**Click**

It turns out he was in Wynantskill and passed Rte 66 Meats & Smokehouse on Main Street.

He spent about $10 and brought home a few goodies to sample. Everything was about $2 each. Two Swiss and mushroom burgers, some chorizo sausage, spicy sausage, and regular sausage.

The burgers seared up nicely on the stove and were filled with tons of shredded swiss and mushroom bits.

The sausages were kind of explode-y.

We couldn’t figure out if Albany John had manhandled them in between buying them, transporting them, and taking them out of the fridge to cook, but these seemed to be delicate sausages. Every single one of them had burst, and oddly enough, none of the ends were tied or anything. Just loose ends of casing.

See? Explodey. I didn’t get why there were no tied ends on here, either. That’s my favorite part of the sausage. All of the snappy casings concentrated in one end.

The casings were natural, but so very thin.

They cooked up okay in the broiler. Tada, naturally cased sausages!

Albany John did a great job searing the burger. Mmm, dark crusty goodness.

And pinky interior goodness! Man, look at that cheese! These burgers were savory, melty, and good. They had a coarse grind to them, which I love in a burger. Makes it feel more substantial and meaty. I’d get these again. And the swiss tasted sharply swiss. Not just melty and cheesey.

The sausages were fine, but not great. I think they were all chicken sausages? They were very lean and finely ground, except for the big guy on the right. I think that one was pork, but still finely ground. I like sausages with nubbins of meat in them, not finer grinds. The consistency is too paste-y to me when they’re ground finer.
I don’t think I’d get the sausages again. I liked the spicier ones, but overall the texture and flavor weren’t enough to pull me to try them again. But the burgers and other meats, I am definitely interested in trying again at some point.
So far the best chicken sausages I’ve had in the area are from Cardona’s – juicy, moisty, and plenty of snap to their casings. I’d bought those on a lark, but was surprised with how good they were.

Oh, and crusty bread is also pretty good with sausages. I made no-knead bread. And good lard, it is sticky stuff in this humidity. I’d up the flour to 1 3/4 of a cup in this NY summer weather. Way too wet of a dough.

Rte 66 Meats & Smokehouse is located at 195 Main Ave, Wynantskill, NY 12198. Phone: 518-283-0482.

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