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cheese

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Finally managed to check out Athos in Guilderland! A lot of their main dishes seemed a bit big for dinner in the summer, so Albany John and I just ordered a lot of appetizers to share. 3 dips for $10. We got Melitsanosalata, Fava, and Tarmosalata. They also served a freebie dish of olive tapenade. I think the dips could have been saltier, but overall they were pleasant. Also, not enough pita for the dips. We probably could have used 2x the amount of pita for the dips given. Which is crazy, because it looks like it’s a lot of pita when you get the basket, but the slices are not that big.
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Sagnaki – cheese flambeed table-side. How can I not love this?

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Grilled octopus was okay. Came out chopped into small pieces.
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Not really sure if I’d get this again. I think I overhyped this in my mind, mainly because I love octopus and I don’t know of too many other places in the area that list a whole octopus leg on the menu.
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However, the calamari ($10) will totally bring me back. It comes with a spicy citrus oil or marinara, which we noticed after putting in our order. There is no default, though when we asked our server, he said he put in the citrus order.

The exterior was shatteringly crisp, and the calamari meat inside was buttery and tender. So easy to eat lots of it. And the citrusy oil was a very nice contrast of bitter lemon (though not at all spicy).
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Island Kefetethes, $8 – zucchini, feta, onion, and dill vegetable patties. The accompanying yogurt sauce didn’t complement it and masked a lot of the delicate dill flavor.

The main dishes seemed a bit too heavy for me, at least during the summer time, so a dinner of appetizers was right up my alley.

The service I experienced was perhaps a bit too casual and chatty for the atmosphere. It was pretty dead when we were there, and I had to remind my server about my drink order, and the check was dropped without offering dessert (which I could have asked for, but eh, once the check is dropped, I tend to just want to pay the bill and leave). There was also a request for email addresses for their mailing list, which just seems more on par with a restaurant that doesn’t seem as… upscale? My favored way to interact with restaurants via social media is either on Facebook or Twitter, and don’t worry – I’ll find you.

So. Overall, I’d probably go back to the bar and snack on calamari.

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J’adore Quebec, J’adore Montreal. It’s such a wonderful place, full of great food and generally friendly people. I was introduced to Cantine Relais 202 by the lovely R at Chopsticks Optional. I also learned a new way to go across the border at the Champlain, NY exit, which I will use from here on out. It was great! We breezed through on our way in to Montreal, and only had a 10 minute wait on our way back to the US. I still always find the Canadian side of the border to be more friendly and welcoming. The US side tends to be very grilling and aggressive compared to the Canadian side.

Any way, Cantine Relais 202 is a great first stop across the border for poutine!

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We got a small with curds and cheese, and ZOMG, it was great to eat the squeaky curds! This dish truly is something that we NY-ers just can’t seem to replicate. While Cantine Relais 202 is about 5-10 minutes from the border they predominantly speak French. I was expecting a bit more English so close to the border and ordered “Hi, I’d like a small poutine, please,”, but was met with “Quoi? Eh, Quoi?” so I fumbled into my godawful broken French, which got the job done.

Quebec/Montreal tip: While the province is bilingual, they prefer French and you’ll be better received if you begin politely in French if you are greeted only in French. Some folks will do “Allo/Bonjour” as a way to differentiate, but this is mainly in very touristy areas. I had a lot of success with a very heartfelt “Desole…”. I mean, think about it. You’re a guest, go with what your “host” prefers with if you can.

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Stopped for coffee and wifi at Kitsune, a cute little hipster cafe that would have fit in perfectly in Brooklyn. Great latte.

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We settled in to our Air BNB rental in Little Italy, and were delighted to find Bixi bikes around the corner! It was a great space to stay – two balconies, and 1.5 blocks from Marche Jean Talon!

We parked the car on the street and left it, choosing to rent bixi bikes for the duration of the trip. It was a great way to get around and I highly recommend it. $7/24 hours or $15/72 hours. You’ll get smoked by road bikes, but it’s great for going a few miles here and there, and a good way to build up the appetite between meals.

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When we stopped for coffee, we noticed this tartare bar, Marche 27 on Prince Arthur. So we grabbed our bikes and headed down. There’s a Bixi station just across the street! This was probably the most expensive outing of our trip. Not sure it was really worth the price-tag, but I went with American price points, and most restaurant prices in Montreal are a bit higher than US prices. Makes me wonder about US subsidies, and all that.

Any way, here is what we ordered. Above is the small ahi tuna taratare bowl ($22). Noodle salad with some veggies, and topped with tartare.

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Darn, I wish I took a better photo of this salad. These are all of our dishes. The blob in the center was this great grilled kale salad with beets, chevre, and corn nuts over frisee ($12). The corn nuts were smashed into bits, so they added a nice crunchy and salty texture to the salad. Albany John and I both loved this dish. The charred kale flavor, the cooked yet-still-firm beets. The textures and flavors were all fantastic together.

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PLATTER OF TARTARE!! Had to get the tasting platter for $40. From front to back: Thai Salmon, Spicy Veal, Italian Duck, Traditional Beef, Japanese Tuna. 50g of each type, for a total of 250 g (a little over 1/2 lb)

The fish dishes were just okay. Not sure if it’s the location, but the fish quality was just “acceptable”. Good to try, but I’d order the beef iterations again. The Spicy Veal wasn’t really spicy. Like, at all. It really tasted quite mild and kind of bland. I really enjoyed the Italian – Parmesan, truffle oil (I know, I know, but it tasted good here), chives, and onions. A nice punch of savory. The traditional french tartare preparation was good, though I though it could have used a little more salt (but keep in mind I am a salt fiend).

We also got some fries ($4), which came with a tasty dipping sauce.

Service was prompt and friendly. The location was a bit clubby/geared for late-night crowds, which was a boon for late-night eaters like us. A cute, cozy little romantic place for dinner overall.

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Here’s a shot of the caffeine station from our rental. Oh man, that was some good espresso.

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The next morning we headed to Marche Jean Talon! It’s a 7-day a week vegetable market. There are a few stalls of folks who purchased from distributors, but they’re fairly obvious. The majority of stalls are occupied by local farmers with beautiful produce.

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There are several rows of stalls. It’s not an all-day type place to visit, but you could definitely kill 1-3 hours there depending on how long you linger.

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Premier Moison! This was a brick-and-mortar building which had the best croissants of the market.

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An inferior croissant, which was much more bread roll-y than croissant-y.

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Love the branding.

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If I lived in Montreal, my version of a farm share would be going to Marche Jean Talon and buying a few bucks off of the discount tables. I couldn’t actually see anything wrong with this produce. No blemishes or anything! It took a lot of control not to impulsively buy it all.

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Beautiful displays.

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A few goodies from the morning haul – fail croissant, gooseberries, tart cherries, cucumbers, and a cantaloupe.

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An awesome sectional couch from the rental.

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Albany John has had the Biodome on his tourist list for years. We finally made it over there, and were… well… I was underwhelmed. I thought it would be bigger, with more stuff to see. There were basically a few large rooms with varying climates you’d walk in to. A few animals (which, BTW, the more I see animals in captivity as an adult, the more depressed I get when seeing them).

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There was a sloth exhibit. One thing I found interesting about the Biodome is how minimal the barriers between exhibits/animals and people were.

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Moar biking. We didn’t eat hear because it smelled like poo inside. Like, serious sewage leak or something.

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This place was probably not much of a better choice. It was basically a Thai version of greasy Chinese takeout that we have in the US (except much cleaner).

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Bar of pre-made stuffs.

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$18 for a 3-choice plate and two rice rolls. Seemed pretty steep for what it was. The 3-choices of meat, veggies, and tofu were pretty greasy and bland akin to most “asian” fast food. But it provided the necessary calories to continue biking all over the city. I think we netted at least 15 miles that day.

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This is from a grocery store. Oh man, I wish Liberte were as cheap here!

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Another Hat Tip due to R at Chopsticks Optional. Marche Hung Phat for Vietnamese food.

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Iced coffee, which was basically like dessert. Mmm, so good. Also necessary after biking all over the city.

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Banh mi!! $3.99 each, and so good! We got a traditional banh mi, and one which also included Vietnamese bacon/pork, which is basically like adding char siu to it, and ZOMG, delicious.

Marche Hung Phat prefers French. I’m not sure if they don’t speak English, or just really prefer French. There was a younger guy there who could speak English, but expect this ordering to be predominantly en Francais.

Languages are so fascinating to me. I’ve got some mental (personal) block over speaking Chinese very well (I’m part Chinese. Why isn’t this coming naturally to me? Oh man, my inflection is totally wrong. I’m pretty illiterate. Why am I not excelling at this?!), despite years of classes. My French isn’t very good either, but I can get by. I have a serious respect for people who speak multiple languages fluently. I’m pretty sure if I came to another country that was bilingual, I’d pick one to do really well (the more commonly spoken), and then put the other one on the back burner. BTW, their French was fantastic.

Okay, personal idiosyncrasies aside…

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Marche Jean Talon was on our way back to the rental, so we picked up some provisions to cook at home.

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Spinach, zucchini, onion, beets, and some pork chops from Porc Meilleur. About $20 overall.

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Bounty!

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Dinner before our show. Oh yeah, we didn’t go to Montreal strictly for eating, but for the Just for Laughs comedy festival, primarily know as Juste Pour Rire. It’s a pretty big event, with some free shows, and some private events. We saw Kumail Nanjiani & Friends at Cabaret Underworld on Friday night.  I heard rumblings about Seth Rogen being there in the back somewhere. We’d also tried to get seats at Au Pied du Cochon Thursday night, and evidently Seth Rogen was there, too. I’m not much of a celeb stalker (I am incredibly awkward), but I thought it was neat to be in the same place as anyone twice in two days.

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Saturday Morning we headed back to Marche Hung Phat for brunchy good times. I had a dessert beverage cup while we waited for …

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A big bowl of bun rieu ($7.99). The crab soup was okay. A bit light on the broth flavor, but overall a tasty way to start the day.

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I found out that Albany John and I cannot eat 6 croissants in one day before they start to deteriorate in texture. Sadface.

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Two baguettes. Oh man, I wish there were a Premier Moison nearby.

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Baguette & Croissant crumbs.

Albany John can always find graffiti in Montreal. Here are some of his pics:

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Montreal’s food trucks are interesting. The people of Montreal are getting into food trucks, but the regulations prevent food trucks from operating on the street like we have in NY. Instead, they’re primarily seen at festivals where the streets are blocked off, or private events.

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This milk shake was not good. Proof that food truck doesn’t automatically = awesome. Very watery. Like iced milk.

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And then back to Cabaret Underworld for Al Madrigal! Ironically, Cabaret Underworld was a 3rd floor walk up.

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But they had great graffiti/art on the walls of the staircase to look at on the walk up.

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We got to Cabaret Underworld early enough to snag front row seats for Al Madrigal! I even got to say hi at the end when he did a meet & greet with the audience after the show. I was incredibly nervous and awkward “Hi! I’m a huge fan! That was a great show! I was crying at the end, you were so funny!” I seriously fangirled out. Sorry, Al Madrigal.

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Neat art exhibit at a local artist area on St Catherine. These folks also help put on the Under Pressure graffiti series.

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Chibi devil house.

We then roamed the city. It was also the night of a fireworks display, so we headed to a hilly part of Parc Jeanne-Mance, but needed some snacks along the way. I swore I’d avoid Schwartz’s smoked meats, but… well, it was right there.

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No, not there. Somehow we missed going into Cinema L’Amour this time around. But right on the same block is…

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Schwartz’s smoked meats. Now with aggressive panhandlers out front! There wasn’t a long line out of the door when we went, which was nice.

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I got a half pound of fatty smoked meat, and had packed half of a baguette in my backpack. The meat was fine, but I still don’t get the hubbub over this meat. It’s good, but it’s not *that* good. I mean, then again, I smoke my own meat so it’s not like this is the only place I can get my smoked meat fix.

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We had a little picnic and watched the sky explode.

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Sunday was our last day, and so we went back to Marche Jean Talon for breakfast. The last time we went to this creperie was years ago when my friend first introduced us to Marche Jean Talon and the guy working that day was a real douche. I remember ordering some crepe, watching him make it, roll his eyes, then make it again, and handed me/us two crepes mashed together and condescendingly saying “The order is normally not this much, but I messed up the first one, and so I gave it to you for free with this,”. You really had to hear it, since it’s all in tone, but seriously, I’d never heard someone be such an asshole about messing up an order before and acting like what he was doing was an act of benevolence. He rolled his eyes and sighed when I said “Um. Okay. Thank you.”

Oh, and the franken crepe he made was kind of sucky and soft overall. Serious douche canoe.

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Fortunately our experience this time was much better. Service was excellent and efficient.

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Obviously, I ordered dessert for breakfast. Salted caramel crepe. I couldn’t detect any salt, but this was tasty.

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Albany John went for jamon, bechamel, and mushroom, which was probably a much wiser breakfast choice. Great flavors and very hearty.

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I continued dessert-for-breakfast by stopping at Havre-Au-Glaces at Marche Jean Talon.

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FOR BURNT MAPLE SYRUP ICE CREAM!!! CAN YOU EVEN?! It was so delicious. The burnishing straddling the fine line of bitter and sweet so well.

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Havre aux Glaces is primarily French speaking as well, but not to worry if your ice cream ordering skills are rusty (like mine). You’ll get through it just fine.

Oh Montreal. I already can’t wait to return! It was great to spend time checking out the Little Italy section of Montreal, as we normally hub around downtown and St Catherine. But we are getting older and it’s time to try new things. Break out of the comfort zone! Continue the adventures! Also, I’m starting to hate crowds of people and ear-splitting music even more as I get older, so most bars hold no appeal to me. The next place to try is Au Pied du Cochon. I really hope to get there one of these years.

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Two of my friends went Morocco for a few weeks and came back with loads of goodies for me. One of these goodies was a sleeve of different types of honey that is produced in Moroco. They don’t have large flowers here like we do in the US, but herbs and small shrubbery that have flowers bees can eat. I really liked the lavender honey. It was very subtle. The Mountain honey one one of my favorites, right along with Euphorbe (which seems to translate to Euphoriba, which refers to an entire genus of plants).

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Eucalyptus even went surprisingly well with Four Fat Fowl’s St Stephen cheese, which I picked up at the Co-Op one night.

The only two that were good on their own but not with this cheese were the orange blossom and the thyme. For me, creamy citrus flavors are not great as a whole, so you may like this combo. The thyme was just so bold and beautiful on its own, the St Stephen just couldn’t hang.

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Four Fat Fowl is one of the new kids on the local cheese block. And oh my gosh, do you ever want to play with this kid. So far they’ve got one new toy on the market, and it’s a luscious triple cream called St Stephen. And 8 oz plop will set you back about $12.50, and let me tell you – it is well worth the price.
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Four Fat Fowl had a sampling of their cheese at The Gingerman a few weeks ago. The Simple Treat has a great writeup of Four Fat Fowl and what they’re trying to do. They’re still trying to raise a bit more scratch to make small-scale production viable and have a kickstarter campaign going on.
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Veggie & cheese sliders/mini sandwiches. Albany John liked these.
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Smoked salmon canapes with St Stephen cheese, radish and basil oil. I loved this combo, though Albany John thought the salmon blasted the delicate flavor of the cheese. I thought it was richness-on-fat goodness.

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Cheese, in its pure form. Carbs entirely unnecessary, though nice.
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This was awesome – a few different ways to try the cheese. A variety of honeys, some fruit, some veg.

I cannot underscore how lovely and creamy this was. And how fresh! It is easily my new favorite cheese, and I’m kicking myself for not picking up a wheel right then and there. You’ve got to try it. They’re currently being stocked at The Cheese Traveler and the Honest Weight Co-Op, though call ahead to see if they have them in stock as they’ve been selling very quickly.

 

The Cheese Traveler to Host Friday Night Cookouts

Where: The Cheese Traveler, 540, Delaware Ave, Albany

When: May 30th, and subsequent Friday evenings

Cost: Priced according to menu between $4-$10

The Cheese Traveler, a cheese shop which opened in Albany in September 2012 and was recently named Best New Specialty Food Shop in Hudson Valley Magazine, will host Friday Night Cookouts over the summer beginning May 30th.

The menu will rotate every few weeks and feature locally raised meat, seafood, and seasonal vegetables. The Cheese Traveler sells organic beef and pork from Tilldale Farm, Fish from Fin, and developed many relationships with great producers when they sold their cheeses at farmers markets over the last three years.

We want to consistently host events in the neighborhood to bring people together. We couldn’t think of a better way to enjoy summer than with the grill. It gives us an opportunity to feature Tilldale Farm and other small producers of local meats, some of the great products we sell, and Ryan Skrabalak, our chef, whose talent we believe is one of the gems of our shop.” said proprietor Eric Paul.

***Squee! I’m so excited for this! I love being able to grab a casual burger in the Del So and just hang out. I’m not much of a burger-making gal myself, but I will totally swing by when someone else is making them.– Albany Jane***

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Ah, Parivar. One of my favorite casual spots for a quick dinner. No need for reservations, and you can pick up ingredients from the grocery store part of the store on your way out. Pista Falooda ($4.49) is a great way to have dessert with dinner.
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Samosa chat ($4.99) on the left, Idili Sambar ($3.99) and Dahi Vada (4.99) on the right. The Samosa were fine samosas, which came with a big bowl of chickpea masala.

The Idili are delicately steamed rice cakes, and the dahi vada are fried lentil-based doughnuts. Yet despite being fried, they taste deceptively light. Coconut chutney rounds them both out.

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Some DIY Pani Puri ($4.99) on the left, and a bowl of tokri chat ($5.99) on the right.
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Paneer Dosa ($8.99!) I love the gigantic dosas here. But make sure you bring a bunch of friends to share like I do! I loved the texture and flavor of the paneer in the dosa. So good.
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Full meal ($7.99) two of the prepared dishes from the bar in front (okra and.. some other veggie dish I forget now) with a hefty side of basmati rice, dal, two parathas, one dessert, and spicy pickle and yogurt sauce on the side. The only clunker here was the dessert. A little overly soft, and the flavor is a little oily. Desserts seem to be Parivar’s weakness. Their savory dishes are a treat, but I’ve never really enjoyed their desserts.
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One of the Indian Chinese dishes. These tend to be really salty, and that’s coming from a salt lover. It is fun to have a little bit of, but so overwhelmingly salty that I would probably not order this as a single item to eat solo.
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Bread pakodas ($1.50 each) stuffed slices of bread and deep fried.
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Gobi Indian Chinese on the left, another delicious dosa!

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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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