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Chicken

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The Good Morning Cafe is expanding to become Good Night Noodle, a pho-centric Vietnamese restaurant.

They had a gathering of local bloggers one night to try out some of the the dishes that Good Night Noodle would feature.

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I’ve been following Good Morning Cafe for a while, but never managed to get up there (as I am a horribly late person and I just don’t leave my house early enough to get to breakfast places). This was also an awesome chance to learn more about GMC and their commitment to buying locally, easily summed up by their motto of “eat good * do good * feel good”.

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It’s a clean, open space with plenty of tables. Now, breakfast is always problematic for me, but dinner is much easier to add to my calendar. Good Night Noodle is projected to open in April 2014.

The Capital Region as a whole doesn’t have too many Vietnamese places – there’s Kim’s, & Van’s in Albany (and I know, I know so are My Linh and Pho Yum, but both of sit on the high side of menu pricing), Saigon Spring in Clifton Park, and soon Good Night Noodle in Ballston Spa. And it’s worth the drive.

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Shrimp Summer Rolls – with the addition of red bell pepper for a textural crunch.

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Vegetarian summer rolls also with red bell pepper. Good Night Noodle prepares Vietnamese food a little bit differently than most traditional Vietnamese restaurants. There is more of a focus toward using local produce and meats, and 95% of the menu will be gluten-free (and that 5% will mainly be dessert).

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Perfectly wrapped spring rolls!

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Pho condiment platter of hoisin sauce, Thai basil, cilantro, limes, jalapenos, and bean sprouts.

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Quick pickled veggies in apple cider vinegar.

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Chicken meatball pho. This was an awesome broth. Actually, all of the Good Night Noodle broths are awesome. Full bodied and warming but not too rich or heavy, which tends to be my broth preference. This was rich with chicken flavor. This bowl would be considered a small and will retail for about $7 per bowl. There will be large options available as well for $10-12.

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The bowls from the Good Morning Cafe were a bit on the shallow side, and Good Night Noodle has an indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the start-up and initial operating costs of setting up Good Night Noodle. This will include deeper bowls for more broth in their pho, among other kitchen upgrades/purchases.

The chicken meatballs use toasted rice flour, coconut oil, and aminos (aminos in place of soy sauce). It’s a great spongy texture – kind of like a fish cake, but chicken-y. It’s an awesome addition to pho – delicious on its own, but also great for soaking up a bit of pho broth. Once Good Night Noodle is open there are also plans of a chicken meatball sandwich.

Ok, more on the broths – the veggie broth is SO rich, thick, and delicious I’m going to have a hard time picking which soup I’d want – veggie, chicken, or beef. Normally I’d just brush off the vegetarian broth and likely go for beef, but this vegetarian broth really gives the other broths a run for their money.

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Dessert! Orange Blossom Cupcakes, and the best vegan cookies I’ve ever had.

 

 

Last weekend I drove down to Flushing to celebrate Chinese New Year with my family. It was our first year celebrating without Yeh-Yeh, our family’s patriarch. That didn’t really hit me until shortly before my drive down, but for me simply having these traditions with family keeps us together and that is what is important.

The drive down was a breeze (when I drive to Flushing from Albany I go: 90E > Taconic > 84E > 684S > 678SHutchinson River Pkwy> Whitestone Bridge. It’s about 15 minutes more than taking 87S down, but it saves on the tolls up until the Whitestone Bridge ($7.50) and breaks up the drive into smaller chunks so I don’t get bored. It also probably seems more complicated to hop off of the Taconic onto 84E, but it’s a much smoother drive with better drivers than taking the Taconic down all the way (you avoid where the road narrows, and all of the crappy drivers on it).
I got in shortly after 5, and figured I’d have to drive a while for parking, but found free street parking within 30 minutes! Woo hoo! I didn’t have to move the entire time I was there. I don’t know about you, but when I head down to NYC, I like to park and just leave my car until I’m ready to head back home.

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For dinner we went to Jin Cheng Restaurant, which I protested because last year we had a pretty craptacular experience at the kid’s table, and I thought we went there more for its close proximity to Yeh-Yeh’s condo than the quality of the food. I’ve since discovered they are better at lunch, or when they’re not busy, so they’re not a total lost cause, but I had prepped myself for a less-than-awesome Chinese New Year dinner because Chinese New Year Weekend in Flushing = every Chinese Restaurant is gonna be mobbed.

I was pleasantly surprised with how GOOD dinner was. Maybe it’s because we were a smaller group and not two big tables. (Maybe Yeh-Yeh was in the kitchen yelling at the chefs for me ;) ) It was my dad, his best gal, my uncle, Albany John, and me.

We started off with Beef and gai lan. Great wok hei on the beef, and super tender.
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Honey-walnut-mayo prawns with broccoli on the left. Plump and fat shrimp, no complaints there. Fresh crispy skin chicken at the top, and the same beef on the right (after initial decimation)

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Lobster Cantonese-style with ginger and scallions. We got two big lobsters. So perfectly cooked. I would say this is one of my favorite ways to eat lobster. This way, or just steamed.
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Whole steamed flounder. Mmm. It looks big, but it’s easy to eat a lot of. So light and good.

Albany John and I went for a little walk after dinner to digest. Naturally we wound up at Tous Les Jours, a French-Asian bakery.

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Like most Asian bakeries, there’s a bunch of goodies laid out for you to pick yourself, plus refrigerated things behind the counter.

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I wanted to keep walking, so we had a late-night (for Flushing, i.e. 9 PM) picnic on a bench near the police station (I know romance).

I usually love the stuff Tous Les Jours makes, but man this was mixed bag. The vanilla milkshake was really unpleasant – lots of large chunks of ice, and cheap vanilla ice cream. Bleh. And $4.50 to boot.
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Here was the statue we noshed at, right in between the hubbub of traffic.
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Macarons: skip. Red velvet on the left and Oreo on the right. Red velvet had no notable red velvet flavor, and used a pasty vanilla buttercream as the filling. The black “Oreo” macaron also bore no flavor of its namesake, and was equally pasty. Disappointing. I should have avoided from the start because while these were not cracked, they had some cracked macarons on display, and if they took pride in their macarons, the cracked ones would never be up for sale.
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Albany John got a cream cheese pastry. These are epically delicious in an it’s-so-bad-for-you kind of way. I’m pretty sure I could hear one of his arteries start to clog. They don’t skimp on the cream cheese.

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I had a backup pastry which was tasty – a soft and fluffy bun filled with sweet potato filling and covered in almond flour/meal. Yum. Stick with the baked goods you can pick yourself and you’ll be good.
The next day we kicked off the day eating (of course).

Joe’s Shanghai to start for breakfast. We got there right when they opened at 11 AM and had no wait.

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Bready, soft scallion pancakes.
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Big steamer full of 8 Pork & Crab Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings). If you go to Joe’s Shanghai, you absolutely must get xiao long bao. The tongs are kind of unnecessary, and the teeth on them can pierce the skin of the dumpling, and there goes all of your soupy goodness. Their skins were good (but Ala Shanghai’s are thinner!), but the broth is where these dumplings shine. Each soup dumpling contains a glorious broth. Each dumpling is a treat, and if I think just a bit, I can relive those flavors for just a moment. The broth is thick and rich, with hearty flavors from both the pork and crab, but neither standing out over the other and instead combining to make this magical soup that you can’t get enough of.
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Shanghai style rice cakes, with some veggies and meat. Nice softness and wok hei.

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Two big bowls of soup. I think their soups are a bit on the bland side, at least after eating the xiao long bao. Beef chuck on the left, pork and veggies on the right. Noodles are okay, but they need a little salt or something. I think the soups at Taiwan Noodle are better though (deeper broth flavors and better noodles).

Then Albany John and my uncle split off to do their own thing, and Dad and his gal and I were off to have more adventures. I was SUPER excited because I was planning on going to Sunrise Kitchen & Hardware Supplies (4205 Main St, Flushing, NY). This place is awesome for all of your Asian kitchen gadget needs.

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Sadly for me, they took the week off for Chinese New Year. No cheap and awesome kitchen supplies. Next time. Sigh.
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Saw some lions on the street.
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Went to Rose House for an English-style tea break. Overall, I’d say it’s a nice place if you want to get away from the loudness and crowds in a pretty atmosphere and comfy seats, but that’s about it. All of the teas seemed to taste the same, and they were on the expensive side – $9.00+ per small pot.

Service was weird. A server initially told us there was a 2 hr sitting limit because it was the weekend (which was fine and totally reasonable), but then after being there for a total of 40 minutes the same server took away our tea warmers and started checking the pots. There were no crowds waiting for a table, either.

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Their butter cookies were decent, and despite finding a hair in the rose hips jam after I spooned some on a cookie it was freaking DELICIOUS.

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I broke off to explore on my own and found Pho Hoang on Kissena Blvd.

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There are tables, but order here at the counter for to-go orders. It also shares space with a Chinese butcher further near the front of the store. It’s not the cleanest looking space, but $4.00 for a banh mi was calling my name.
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Hello gorgeous. A nice baguette tucked into a parchment sleeve.

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SO GOOD! Look at that bread. It’s deliciously perfect little baguettes with a crisp exterior that gives way to a soft, squishy interior. Great for banh mi and stuffing with julienned veggies, pate, meat, and cliantro. Yum, yum, yum.
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$4.00 for all of this, versus $6.50 (to start) for a small banh mi at Pho Yum in Albany that doesn’t even use the right bread.

I wound up going to a friend’s that night.

The next morning we went to Jade Restaurant for dim sum with one of my aunts and some cousins.

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More lions!

The wait wasn’t too bad, but my aunt saw a friend of hers who was a manager, and we got whisked off to a side room that I’ve never seen before (that was opened up to handle the Chinese New Year crowds). That was awesome – less loudness and craziness, all of the carted dim sum goodies.
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Food, food everywhere. So good.

We hung out for a bit, but soon it was time to hit the road.

But not before hitting up Pho Hoang one last time since Albany John was back.
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And there was a DRAGON group that came in!
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I got a regular banh mi ($4.00) & a duck banh mi ($6.00).
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They withstood the drive up pretty well – the bread stayed crisp and the interiors didn’t get soggy.
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Duck on the left, regular banh mi on the right.

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We both thought the regular/standard banh mi was better than the duck banh mi. Better flavor overall. The duck was good, but man, the veggies and meat are just SO good!

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Husbear and I were kicking around Troy one afternoon when fried chicken sounded like a good snack. $7 for 10 boneless wings (AKA chunks of chicken breast) with honey BBQ sauce at the Flying Chicken. Great fry job on the chicken breast – moist and juicy breast meat, and a crispy (non-greasy) fry job on the exterior.

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The honey BBQ sauce came on the side and must have been sitting a while – all of the honey had settled to the bottom.

A nice little snack for two and place to sit while roaming around downtown Troy. They’ve got Square

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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 love this Galbi marinade I picked up from the Asian Supermarket on Central Ave. No High Fructose Corn Syrup, and adds so much flavor to beef. I wondered how they’d do marinating mushrooms and the short story is: AWESOME.

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Here’s what the marinade looks like. Viscous stuff. A little goes a long way.

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Three mushrooms, a few tablespoons of galbi marinade, and 30-60 minutes of wait time.

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Albany John also dry-brined a chicken by rubbing it with salt and other seasonings.

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Yes, plate of deliciousness! Albany John said that the galbi marinade helped the portobellos retain their moisture on the grill. They also weren’t too sugary, so they didn’t burn on the grill. (This is cap-side down/gill-side up, for reference)

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My oven and I are not on speaking terms. It is so hot, I’ve been trying to avoid turning it on at all costs. So far I’ve had a good 2+ week stretch of no oven heat.

Being able to run to places like Taiwan Noodle have helped me in this battle against a hot kitchen. Also, har gow also help ease my summer crankiness.

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Albany John went for spring rolls. They’re fine, perfectly fried, but have never been my thang. Stewed beef chucks, please! Got the appetizer size, and it comes with 4 slices of baby bok choy. Yay, greenery. I wonder if they’ll ever just make a stir-fried or bok choy dish. They don’t have all too many pure-veggie dishes or side dishes available.

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Also got some preserved/pickled cabbage to help cut the internal heat. And some of their Taiwanese Fried Chicken, new for the summer. Good fry job, like all of their fried things, but kind of bland for me. The green seasonings were pretty tasteless/bland as well. This would probably be good for picky eaters- the equivalent of chicken strips.

Taiwan Noodle also has iced beverages for summer! Bubble teas, basil seed drinks, and I think smoothies…

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I had to go down to the city for a friend’s graduation party. I kind of didn’t want to go, but you know. Social obligations and all. Albany John said I’d be a dick if I didn’t go because it was a big deal to the graduate. I feel like the older I get, the less I connect with a lot of people (or maybe, the more I disconnect with people), and I’m fine with it, but other people. Well, less so. I don’t know. I just don’t feel like there are all that many things I really get worked up about lately.

Any way, I wanted to go to Flushing for to check in with my Uncle and see how he was doing after Yeh-Yeh’s passing before going to this grad party. Well, I thought it was just going to be my uncle, but it turned out to be a lot of my family! That was such a nice surprise. He called my aunts, and one aunt brought my cousin and her husband (my uncle), plus there were two family friends, and it was great to see so much of the family there. My dad was on vacation, so it was awesome of my Uncle to reach out to the rest of my family when he heard I was coming.

Soy skin snack above.

We went to Jin Cheng for lunch on Saturday. That place is a ghost town on the weekend mornings, I’m guessing because they stopped doing dim sum. They still do lunch specials, but no dim sum. And oh my gosh, they are a million and one times better when they don’t have any guests than when they are busy. They also have a free parking lot – no hunt for parking. It’s definitely starting to grow on me.

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Albany John wanted mapo dofu. Sqidgy, soft tofu pieces in a fairly mild (but flavorful) sauce.

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Whatever the hell this dish is, I want two of ‘em the next time I’m there. It was a simple, flavorful dish: rice cake slices (the chewy kind) with some preserved veggies and salty egg. Funky, salty, savory. Definitely a dish I can get down with.

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Moar dishes.

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Crispy Skin Chicken! So good we ordered a second half! It comes with this rockin’ garlic & scallion sauce on the side that you don’t want to mix. Kind of like Chinese chimichurri, except it probably has MSG in it.

Party was okay. Didn’t get much face time with the graduate, but the grad seemed to be happy we came. I think I am just quickly becoming curmudgeonly and not getting “kids these days”, even when they’re about my own age.

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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.

The last time I saw Yeh-Yeh was when he was in New York Hospital Queens in Flushing, NY. He had suffered some more mini strokes and had an NG tube in. He slept for most of the time I was there, and only started waking up an hour or two before my dad, Albany John, and I left. There were flowers by his b

The time before that, he was in a rehab facility after his first stroke was discovered. He was awake, but didn’t recognize any of us, not that we could really tell. That really freaked me out. It made me anxious to see someone I love not recognize me, or his kids. He couldn’t even talk. After that visit I was probably more edgy, reserved, irritable, and anxious (or all of the above) than normal. It’s hard for me to know I’m unable to do anything to change a situation.

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Any way, the last visit. I had stayed up way too late the night before (1 am, 2 am, 3 am?) having a pointless snip fit with Albany John. Later that morning when we woke up, I asked if he’d come down with me. Of course, he said yes. I’m glad I had the company in the car with just a few hours of sleep, and the support while we were there.

We got in around noon, and YehYeh snoozed for most of the time we were there. I found this very comforting. Like he wasn’t sick, and he was just tired. Some family friends/extended family were there, and left a bit after we got there. We had several hours just with YehYeh, and spent a few minutes in our chairs snoozing right next to him. I really liked that. No rush. No fussing. Just some time with my YehYeh.
My Dad & Auntie showed up later in the afternoon. Some time around 4 or 5 the potassium they were administering to him really must have started kicking in, because he started waking up and looking around. He’d look right at you. My Dad had told me earlier how he’d give anything just to have him around for a while just blinking. Man, I had that same feeling when he opened his eyes.

We left a little after that, some time close to 5:30 or 6 pm so my dad and Albany John and I could get some dinner. I kind of didn’t want to leave, especially because he had just opened his eyes, but it had been a hard day, and it was nice to have someone else tell you to do something, or to go.

We wound up at Sam Won Gak in the Murray Hill subset of Flushing. I had mentioned I could go for Korean, we drove around and found free(!) parking outside on the street, and Sam Won Gak sounded pretty good. Turns out, it’s Korean-Chinese fusion. They start you out with some pickled yellow daikon, raw sweet onions, bean paste, and kimchi as the banchan. Not the most plentiful, but not bad.

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The waitresses were all older auntie type ladies, who worked together like an efficient military group. Sam Won Gak seems to be a hang out and drink kind of place, at least on a Saturday around 6 PM. Most of the other patrons were middle aged guys or older hanging out and putting away soju like it was their job. No rush, spacious tables, minimal decor. I’d probably like going here a lot if I lived here, because there’s more space than a bar, and it’s much quieter than a bar, too.

I forget what this was exactly called, but it’s basically like a Korean take on General Tso’s chicken, but less greasy/gloppy than the Americanized Chinese dish. But still a bit gloppy. $13 or $16 or something like that. A big plate of battered and fried chicken pieces in a lightly spicy cornstarch sauce with a smattering of veggies. The waitress double checked on wanting it spicy, and I was kind of bummed by the heat level. Didn’t even require a second glass of water. Flavorful, but not very spicy. Even my dad agreed that this was tasty, and not painfully spicy.

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My Dad spent a few weeks in (South) Korea this past year. He was in a fairly rural part and couldn’t really get down with the food served in most restaurants because it was usually so spicy. He liked this seafood soup a lot, and said it was really flavorful, and nothing like you’d be able to actually get in Korea. It was something like $8-9 and came with a ton of seafood and veggies. Massive bowl, flavorful and light/non-greasy broth, and tons of seafood. I liked it, too.

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Albany John went for the spicy crab soup ($9-10). Oh man, was that also a good choice. Like my “spicy” chicken, it was also not very spicy. Like, probably a 2/10 in terms of heat. Flavorful, though, and also a clean broth. A bounty of seafood, and plenty of real crab – no fake stuff here.

We drove home that night.

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I keep calling The Flying Chicken the Frying Chicken, mainly because that is the first thing I think of when I think of them. I got a massive biscuit with chicken fried steak, white gravy, and topped with a sunny side up egg. I had trouble finishing all of this, but it was so good!

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Albany John got two pieces of dark meat with a biscuit and some collards. Man, those were some good collards.

The fry job on the chicken fried steak and chicken were great – crisp exterior with lots of crunch, and moist meat underneath. Yes.  Albany John loves the Flying Chicken. He’s eaten there a whole bunch in the past month, and his only regret from his first meal there was that “All other lunches have not been at the Flying Chicken,”. It’s a casual place where you order and pay at the counter, then bus your own table.

Oh, and this is also the beginning of my camera dying – I thought the blurriness was just smudging I didn’t notice, but guess what? The pictures get blurrier/smudgier and it turns out my outer lens started dying, so now I need to find a new camera, yay.

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