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Gluten, who eats it, right? While I don’t have a gluten issue, a bunch of my friends seem to have some sort of gluten sensitivity. I’ve personally been eating less gluteny things just because my body hasn’t been craving it, so when it was time to bring something to a Shabbat potluck (or Shabbatluck as I’ve dubbed it), I was scratching my head trying to come up with something gluten free and Kosher. Kosher is kind of difficult for me personally because I have to stop and think about what I’m combining in a dish (like, meat + dairy is a no-no, and pork is out of the question). But toss in gluten-free and Sherlock Jane is on the case! So I figured I’d take a page from the Paleo/Primal cookbook and use sweet potatoes as the crust. I kind of hate labeling foods as paleo, but it’s an easy tag to generally figure out something is crap-free in terms of ingredients. So this is paleoish. or Paleish.

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Start with a tart pan and a shredded sweet potato mixed with some eggs and whatever other seasonings you want to toss in there. I bought this Fox Run 10″ tart pan off of Amazon. It’s a pretty crappy tart pan – doesn’t conduct heat very well for baking, so make sure you’ve got a pizza stone underneath it for true tarts to have even levels of heat through the center. For stuff like this it doesn’t really matter, though. We’re not making anything temperamental here

Any way, press your shredded sweet potato into the pan and bake it at 350F until it looks like this:

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Something like 15-25 minutes, depending on your oven and the amount of sweet potato shreds you’ve got going on. I went pretty sparse, and that became evident when they dried out while cooking (which is good, we want to remove some of that moisture to make a crust. But whatever, because only a psycho flips over their quiche to inspect the crust during a pot luck.

Any way, get out your eggs and milk (or cream), whisk them together, then shred some cheese (see, this is where Albany Jane checks out from Paleo-ville) and pour all of that over the crust. If it looks low in the pan, mix up a little more. Then blop some pesto on top. I had some pesto in the freezer from the summer. Man, it was nice to get a little blast of summer in the pan.

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Cook it at 350F until it sets in the center, somewhere in the 35-45 minute range. If you’re worried about leakage, flip over a baking sheet to catch any drips.

This was a potluck HIT! I was happily surprised. Usually the healthier/gluten-free/paleo dishes at a potluck get picked over, but I heard people asking for slices of this at dinner, so it was neat to see the “healthyish” dish have to get cut into smaller slices not because people wanted to be polite and try it, but because everyone really wanted a bite and liked it.

I’m not such an egg-as-a-main/quiche person myself, so I’d like to play around with this sweet potato crust concept with other savory “pie” type dishes, and sweet dishes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Want to know a great place to go out for a meal with a group without breaking your budget? Parivar! Parivar the grocery store on Central Ave also has a kitchen/cafe in the back where you can order a bunch of Indian dishes made to order.

I went with a bunch of folks, and not only was it a breeze to order, but they even will break up the bill however you want and accept credit cards. It’s counter service, so no need to worry about tipping, and you pay at the register for the grocery store.

I got a pista falooda ($4.99) to enjoy with my dinner – it’s like dessert in a cup, or an Indian version of a milkshake. So good. It’s a rich milky drink with sweet noodles and nuts. So thick, and a great complement to the food.

Pictured above is Pani Puri ($3.99) which are super awesome and fun to eat if you’ve never had them – They’re crisp round shells that are stuffed with awesomeness and slathered in a mint sauce with tamarind sauce on the bottom of the plate. They are one-bite affairs and best eaten quickly.

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Next up was a fried bread dish. Fried bread stuffed with things, then fried, and mint and tamarind sauces for dipping!

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Closer shot

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DOSA TIME! $7 for a massive masala dosa, and the entire crepe was wonderfully crisp and tender. It’s filled with potatoes and served with masala sambar (the big cup on the right – seriously, so much sambar), and mint and ginger chutneys on the left. The ginger chutney was no shrinking daisy – that was SUPER hot. Woah.

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Onion Uttapam ($5.99, which reminded me of scallion pancakes, but way more tender because they are made of rice flour batter.

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And then we got a paneer paratha. Oh, so good (but really, what doesn’t paneer go with?).

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And then we tried Indian Chinese! Gobi Manchurian. It was like an Indian take on General Tso’s, haha! This was SUPER salty, which is saying a lot since I love salt. But I liked the crisp texture of the cauliflower, and how it wasn’t too cloying. This was a fun dish to try that I’ve only heard about and not seen in any restaurants locally. At dinner, one of our friends said that this is the only place to come for Indian home-style cooking, and most of the sit-down restaurants in the area are a more formal/heavy/banquet type restaurant.

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We ended dinner on a bit of a dud with gulab jamun. They tasted more like fried dough balls in syrup than milky gulab jamun. Could just be their recipe, but I’ll skip this in the future in favor of more savory dishes.

Our group wound up paying about $14 per person for all of this food. It was awesome to try so many dishes, and all of them were vegetarian. Man, this is vegetarian food done right – so much flavor and seasoning and awesome cooking that it enhances the veggies (and if you’re a carinvore like me, you don’t miss the meat one bit). Great for kids, great for groups, great flavors, great for the celiac/gf friends in your life – grab some friends and get over to Parivar!

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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.

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I’ve been trying to use up foods in my pantry for the past month. It’s been a varying degree of success, but when Daniel B. and family left town, I inherited a bunch of foods they could not bring with them. Hee hee, okay, twist my arm (seriously, if you’re in NJ when he leaves, call dibs on his pantry scraps. They have good taste). One of the things I inherited were Parmesan cheese rinds. I toasted some over a flame until they softened a bit. There’s still a fairly narrow window for edibility – they will re-harden and be tough to chew after about 20 minutes.

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And while I’m trying to use up the foods in my pantry, I’m also trying to enjoy the bounty of summer in Upstate New York. I picked up some orange tomatoes, minced a fist-sized tomato and added salt and pepper. Let that sit for 10 minutes, and toss in some chiff’d basil. Maybe toss in some olive oil. Or not. Just enjoy those fresh tomatoes.

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I toasted some leftover rye-ish bread, rubbed it with a raw garlic clove, then topped with the minced, seasoned tomatoes. Bright and summery treat to eat while Albany John grilled me meats.

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Lately Albany John and I have been on the same page diet-wise. I feel like usually we have different dietary goals, but lately we’ve been syncing in what we’re craving, which is nice.

Basically, it’s eat the less crap and more good food diet. And by diet, I mean the stuff we are eating, not “I have to lose weight so I’m eating 1,200 calories per day” diet.

We’re mainly eating more protein and veggies, less dairy, and very few grains compared to how we previously ate. I think lifestyle has something to do with it. I do a decent amount of weight training, and the more weights I lift, the less my body seems to crave simple/refined carbs. As you might be able to tell from my posts, the past year has dropped significantly in how many baked goods I make. We just don’t eat a ton of bread or white carby type things any more. It’s weird, but in a good way. I never thought I’d NOT have a bread craving, you know? Don’t get me wrong, I still will mow the hell out of a baguette from the Placid Baker, but the days of having bread as a main component of dinner are few and far between.

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We had some ricotta and mozzarella in the fridge. And I had been having this craving for stuffed chicken breasts for a while; so I picked up some chicken breasts, fatty capicola, and store-cured ham from Roma. We already had some ricotta and mozzarella in the fridge, so Albany John butterflied the breast and slathered away.

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Things of beauty. The chicken breast at Roma aren’t exactly cheap at $6.99/lb, but they are Murray’s which taste miles better than the $1.99/lb stuff that goes on sale at the supermarket. Roma also has a discount/membership card, where if you put $50 or more on a pre-paid card, you get 20% more. so $50 = $60, $100 = $120. I’ve been doing this for a while, so it brings the breasts down closer to $5.59/lb. I figure if something is going to be a main part of my diet, it may as well be tasty. I don’t want to be one of those people sucking down tasteless chicken just because they want to eat meat, and lots of it.

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Albany John rolled these up with some fresh basil leaves and trussed them before roasting. These were 2 breast pieces (or one whole chicken’s breast), and fairly large.

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I like this rolled & stuffed poultry breast type meal lately. It keeps the breasts juicy, and adds even more flavor. A friend came over for dinner, and we still had enough for a light lunch the next day.

This past weekend Daniel B. put on a mini Tour de Mozzarella Sticks & Melba Sauce. Read his post for thoughtfulness and insight, picks from each location and some minimal commentary are below:

Tour de Mozz & Melba

TJ’s Cafe was the first stop of the day. 2 orders of sticks (3 pieces per order) came out to a little over $15 with tax. These were big honkin’ slabs and not sticks, with an almost-too-perfect not-at-all-greasy crust. Crisp, like a fish stick, almost.

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The mozzarella was some of the most flavorful and melty of the bunch. The melba was enjoyable, but I may have added a squeeze of lime to it to a little contrast.

FWIW, we also ran into Todd as we were heading out, who was a very genuine guy and mentioned how they really try to stay consistent with their recipes for their customers, down to maintaining the same brands in their recipes. Albany John & I had talked about consistency (and inconsistencies) in dishes and foods earlier in the day, so it was nice to hear the importance of consistency talked about by a local restaurant owner.

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Next up was Ralph’s Tavern just up the road on Central Ave. These were my favorite mozzarella sticks of the tour – salty and greasy in just the right way, with just a whisper of a breading between stick and eater. DSCF4926

Gooey goodness. $6.25 for 6 sticks.DSCF4928

Next up was the Across the Street Pub, which I’d never been to before – it’s the 2nd floor. These were some of the least pleasant of the bunch, which means they were still passable, but you can find them in your grocer’s freezer section. These were the only pre-made sticks of the tour. Kind of a bummer at $6.50. At least they were small.DSCF4931

These had a garlicky breading, so they didn’t go so well with the raspberry sauce. This cheese was also the toughest and chewiest.DSCF4933

Graney’s was next. The last time I was in here was after watching a local rugby game years ago, and there wasn’t much eating going on then. These win for largest sticks of the tour. I forget how much these were, but it was reasonable. DSCF4934

These also had a garlicky breading, so the raspberry sauce wasn’t such a great combo.DSCF4936

So much melty-ness! DSCF4939 The final stop was Beff’s, which also featured some rather large mozzarella sticks. They had the best raspberry sauce of the bunch – it had a citrus/lime note in it to keep the raspberry sauce from being too cloyingly sweet. The breading was fairly thick and crunchy.
They also brought out some of the marinara sauce, but I found it to be tinny & unpleasant.

The sticks were best enjoyed here piping hot – they had a very short half-life.
DSCF4941Woo, pull!

Overall, this was a fun quickie-tour. It was by no means comprehensive, but we covered some good ground, and I’m pleased that so many of these places made their sticks in their own kitchens. I found a few new taverns to visit. I am thinking I will have to stop in to TJ’s Cafe and Ralph’s for some of their other fare as well.

 

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.

The Cheese Traveler hosted a wine & cheese pairing at the First Universalist Church in Albany using fairly local wines and cheeses. $25 per person for five wines and cheeses, and the folks were so nice! Unsurprisingly, I arrived (un)fashionably late and didn’t pay until after the event was over, but it’s normally done where you walk in and pay upon arrival.

Here are The Cheese Traveler & The Profussor waxing poetic over wine and fromages. The day/night this was happening I was waffling about attending when a local social media guru & Daniel B. encouraged me to attend. Thank goodness for good friends. This was a great night and I’m glad I made it!
Here’s Daniel B. Cutting off the nose of the cheese. All of the rinds were edible. My memory is terrible, and I’m at least a week behind on posting this, so I don’t really remember any of the cheeses I tasted, other than the last goat cheese blue which was really salty and tasty, and a soft cheese for the first cheese that I really liked. And all of the rinds were edible. Maybe Daniel B. or some other kind samaritan will chip in in the comments.
Lights out! Sexy cheese time!
I cut mangled the last cheese. It was soft and super salty. One of the parishioners of the church made these awesome candied pecans. Oh, so good. Sweet and crunchy, so good with the salty, tangy cheese.
And then we went to Hollywood for buffalo wings. Service was awesome. I’ve always felt like Hollywood was my ideal bar, especially now that they serve food. $4 cape codders and $2.50 PBRs don’t hurt, either.
Crispy fried chicken wings! And tasty blue cheese (really thick & light on the mayo). These were great chicken wings. Meaty, crispy, not too greasy, and plenty of kick to the wings. Can’t wait to go back and order these again.

Congratulations to Christian Noe for winning the 2nd people’s competition at the 3rd Annual Mac & Cheese Bowl at the Albany Marriott.

Overall, the event raised a bunch of money for the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, so excellent on that account.


Here is the assembly line at 677 Prime’s station for hamburger mac & cheese.
An innovative take on it, for sure. I arrived at 11 am on the nose, and it was already packed with people and only got more crowded as the minutes flew by. Not for the claustrophobic, that’s for sure!
One of my favorite stations – Valente’s mac & cheese. I got a huge chunk of crab in my sample, and it was one of the best I tried. My other favorite tie for first was DP Brasserie/Yono’s ducky mac & cheese.

My least fave? Taste’s – instant frowny face. Their flavors didn’t make my mouth happy at all.
Albany John snapped a few action shots for me.
Like these mac & cheese enthusiasts.
Steve announcing the Judge’s Choice (aka, Christian Noe).
The Standard’s presentation for their tex-mex mac & cheese.

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