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When Deanna Fox asks you on a date, you say yes. And maybe you put on something nice, and brush up on your table manners. Deanna asked me if I’d like to accompany her to one of Heather Ridge Farm‘s Supper Clubs and this beautiful golden orb of butter was greeted us at the table when we sat down. This could have been my entire dinner. It was so delightful – Rich cultured farm-fresh butter.
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If you can’t tell, I’m still working on my photography. But here’s a shot of the menu we had for dinner. Dinner is served at a trio of communal tables seating about 16 people in total. The chairs even have soft fuzzy pelts draped over them.
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Hello darling. While the butter was a darling of dinner, really, you should get to Heather Ridge Farm for a meal, because everything was just so deliciously thought out and prepared.
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First up was a rosemary infused seltzer with blood orange garnish. Delightful, and a nice refresher to accompany dinner.
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Everything at the supper club was prepared on site, with as many ingredients coming from the farm or locally as possible.
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Butternut squash soup with with Heather Ridge Farm’s own lamb merguez and harissa infused yogurt. Wow. I never get excited about butternut squash soup, but this was great. Hearty without being heavy, this soup brought a bowlful of rich flavors – the harissa and moroccan spices added depth and complexity to the butternut squash, which brought it closer to the savory side. Great harbinger of flavors to come.
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Warm winter salad of potatoes, parsnip, sauerkraut, Heather Ridge pancetta, and some lightness from parsley. The potatoes could have been a touch longer, but this was overall a great salad for a cold winter night, and the parsley was a nice punch of greenery and contrast. I was surprised by how much I really liked the parsley in this dish (normally I think it’s good for countering garlic in its raw, chopped form, but this was just so good on its own).
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Charcuterie plate! Farm made weisswurst, pork liver pate, red wine gel, honey mustard, raw milk cow’s cheese. Ciabatta crisps were also served on the side (which I may or may not have loaded with a bit of that delicious butter at a few points).

Let’s talk pate. For me, not all pates are equal. My ideal pate is smooth, maintains a bit of lightness while still feeling rich and creamy. Heather Ridge’s pate fit the bill nicely for me and paired well with the wine gel as a contrasting sweetness to the richness of pate. The weisswurst were also lovely with the honey mustard and raw milk cheese. Not too smooth, and a nice bite from the casing .
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Sorrel is a highly underused ingredient in upstate NY. I normally think of it as a summer drink for its tart, refreshing flavor. Heather Ridge Farm made a Spiced Caribbean Sorrel beverage, that tasted closer to a mulled winter beverage. It was great to try a different execution on this dish. And also a great way to clear the palette before eating…
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Root beer braised short ribs served over polenta, with roasted endive and leeks. This is a dish that is sure to beat the winter blues. The root beer flavor added a supporting sweetness to these hearty beef ribs. The portion was also incredibly generous for grass fed beef. I was expecting about half as much (yet somehow I managed to finish every last bite).
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Dessert was honey caramel panna cotta – what made this special was that the panna cotta was based on egg whites in a nod to how panna cotta was made before gelatin was as widely used as it now is. And wow, was this delightful. It was a rich dish that left me incredibly full, and yet wanting more. the chocolate shortbread on the side was also great – like a crumbly sable, it was a great accompaniment to the honey caramel panna cotta.

Heather Ridge Farm also has breakfast/brunch on the weekends. Their prices are incredibly reasonable (and dare I say, just a wee bit low?) for the quality they serve. The dining room is small, but worth a wait and drive.

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My big Christmas present from Albany John was dinner at The Crimson Sparrow. The Crimson Sparrow has a frequently changing tasting menu with the occasional Asian influence. It’s headed by owner John McCarthy, and the experience was thoroughly satisfying. We were there for a little over two hours – the meal was paced so well we didn’t even notice how late it was once we left!

To note, the lighting in the dining room is a bit low, and I’m still trying to figure out how to work my new macro lens, so I’ll include a link to Crimson Sparrow’s IG account with much better pictures of these dishes.
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First up was the smoked octopus on uni puree, lardo, and shiso micro greens (Insta Pic). This was a two bite affair and I could have easily done with a plate of this. The octopus was perfectly executed – smoky, tender and meaty, and the uni puree was a deliciously rich pairing. Just an outstanding dish.
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Brussels sprouts with snails, charred leek, miso, honey, cashews, and parsley (IG Pic). The brussels sprouts were deliciously crispy and nutty, and a welcome vegetal dish. I couldn’t discern any snails, but didn’t realize it until I was done with the dish. I really enjoyed this, just didn’t pick up on all of the flavors noted.
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Sunchoke soup! (Instagram Pic) Sunchoke puree with date, chestnut, hazelnut, pickled cauliflower, black truffle. Oh. My. Gosh. Truffles. I go gaga for truffles. Albany John, not so much. This was a rich and creamy puree of sunchokes. One where, if you made it yourself, you’d be hesitant to serve seconds. The cauliflower, dates, and pickled cauliflower were judiciously portioned out in a wee mince beneath the shaving of black truffle. The black truffle added a lovely rich earthiness to the soup. So wonderful, Albany John even enjoyed the truffle aspect. And darn, I was hoping to get an extra slice of truffle from his portion – tee hee. Just kidding – I’m happy he has found one iteration of truffle that he enjoys.
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Scallop on top of salsify puree with masago (IG Photo is slightly different, but you get the delicious idea). Yet another dish that I could have very easily eaten a lot more of. A perfectly seared scallop, still soft and briny, and hugged with black masago.

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Pork belly with white beans, fennel, bay, mustard, rye (IG Pic). I heard fennel and my ears perked up. Uh oh. I’m not normally a fennel fan. But however this was made – yes. I am a fennel fan. The pork was meltinly tender, and the beans were a nice contrast.

Main Course time! Salmon and beef were the two main course options, so we got one of each.
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Skirt steak with broccolini and black bean peanut sauce underneath (No IG photo). This was one the only *womp womp* dish on the menu. The black bean and peanut sauce was just too much – the fermented black bean too present, and oddly out of whack with Crimson Sparrow’s normally judicious portioning. The beef was well cooked, but compared to the rest of the menu this seemed, well, just too normal.
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King salmon on a bed of black lentils, with bonito, sweet potato, maitake, sweet fern, and rock chives (IG Photo). Oh, sweet heavens, yes. Yes a thousand times over. The salmon was so wonderfully (minimally) cooked. The crisp maitakes were a nice textural contrast while also acting as a meaty complement.

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And then there was my favorite of amouses – the dessert amouse. Mulled spice anglaise, red currants, pistachios (IG Pic). What a nice surprise! It was a sphere of mulled spice anglaise, which had me wondering how I could recreate this flavor at home. Maybe reduce some mulled cider and mix it with anglaise? J
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Dessert also featured two courses, and Albany John went with the cheese course – a sheepsmilk soft cheese, I believe, with Bonfiglio bread and some honey on the side.
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I went with the sake lees ice cream on top of green tea cake mountains with some preserved fruit. I realized after ordering that I generally don’t care for sake, so this ice cream on its own didn’t quite sing to me, but as it melted, it made a nice sauce for the cakes to sop up. The cakes were a bit dry and dense and seemed intentional to resemble parts of earth. Admirable to look at, that’s for sure.

Each tasting menu is $75, with wine pairings available for $55. They also have brunch on the weekends, and Sunday Supper (a paired down and more casual tasting menu for $45). I can’t wait to return to try brunch and supper.

 

I  don’t know if there’s much more I love these days than being alone. I went down to NYC to hang with my SIL and BFF Maka for a few days and recharge. I didn’t tell anyone else I was coming down except for one of my cousins, who I was super close with growing up. For some reason, I had a bit of anxiety before seeing her, and almost bailed at the last minute, but I’m glad I didn’t because I was very happy to see her. She lives in Midtown close to Korea Town, and I was eager to eat some Korean food, so it worked out really well! That and I didn’t want to move my car and drive to Flushing. Lazy, I know, heh.

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We went to Kum Gang San, which was just okay. Overall, I think I like the homier Korean dishes more than BBQ. It just seems like a better ROI. This platter of meats to BBQ table-side cost us about $60. It came with banchan and lettuce wraps, but still seemed pretty pricey for the (maybe) 1 lb of meat.
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The grills are right in the center of the table. Kum Gang San was pretty ritzy – there’s a store on the first floor, but a piano player upstairs! They cooked the meats a the table for us. We also got some fried meat dumplings, which were satisfying in the way that fried meat dumplings always are.
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The soups were great. Ginseng chicken in the front, and soondubu jjigae in the background.
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Not so great seafood dduck/teock. It was spicy, but also very sweet and gloppy. We didn’t finish this.
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The next day Maka and I did some touristy things, like go see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall for a Christmas Spectacular. Wow, was it packed! They even had a camel on stage, though I was hoping for more rockette action. It was 50-50 Rockettes-Santa story.
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And then since we were very close to Rockefeller Center, we went to see the tree. I don’t know why, but seeing the Rock Center tree has never really been a big deal to me. Maybe because I grew up in “Upstate” (anywhere north of Westchester to anyone in NYC), and it wasn’t uncommon to see trees this large or larger decorated (though it was usually still planted and in someone’s yard). We went on a weekday, and it was pretty sparse for NYC-standards.
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And HELLO KITTIES!
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For lunch we went to the East Village to Momofuku Noodle Bar! It wasn’t busy at all, which was awesome, and we got seats at the bar right away.
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The menu is simple. About a dozen items: a few apps, a few ramen, and a few sides. I had this pea shoots dish – which was more escarole than pea shoots, pickled daikon cubes, a few carrot shreds, and a spicy dressing. Very tasty and refreshing.
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Momofuku ramen ($16) was everything I hoped for and more, which is a lot of mental hype to live up to. The bowl they serve the ramen in is MASSIVE, and the portion of ramen served is also large. The egg is so amazingly perfectly poached, I almost didn’t want to break it and mix it in with the broth. The noodles were great, and very plentiful (still, I mustered on to finish them). Overall, it was a wonderfully porky broth that even Maka liked (she does not delight in the porcine flavors as I do), and very rich without being greasy and heavy.
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More teock, which are listed a bit confusingly as “rice cakes”. For some reason, both of us were imagining something different, but were pleasantly surprised with this great execution of teock, which made up for the previous nights’ poor dduck/teock.
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And then a quick trip around the corner to Momofuku Milk Bar for a swirl of their cinnamon bun and cereal milk ice cream. The cinnamon bun flavor was INSANE. It tasted like cinnamon streusel crumble. My only regret was being too full to order a slice of crack pie along with the ice cream. Maka and I could barely finish splitting this little cup of soft serve.

And then we went clothes shopping, as one normally does after consuming vast quantities of food. BTW, Trash and Vaudeville is a great gothy/punky store for every day type clothes (well, if you’re into this type of fashion, that is), and their clothes still run true to 90s sizes, even a bit small!

Overall, it was nice to get away by myself for a bit, though for some reason it wasn’t as recharging as I thought it would be.

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Beef Chow Fun! It isn’t dim sum with my family without an order of beef chow fun. However, I wasn’t with my blood relatives when I had this beef chow fun at Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro for dim sum with some of my local “family”.
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I also hope you like cheong fan, because when left to my own devices, I will order literally all of the cheong fan options available. Hong Kong Bakery makes their cheong fan fresh, and it’s hard to resist that slippery-chewy, tender-stretchy quality freshly steamed rice noodles have.
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The shrimp and duck fillings are two of my favorites (favorite favorites?) – very well executed.
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The seaweed and octopus salad was on the specials menu for $9.99. The picture probably looks larger than it was, but these were baby octopus on a small plate. I wasn’t a fan of this one –  served iced cold out of the fridge, well – it didn’t do the octopus any flavors. The seaweed salad underneath was nice, though.

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Happy 1-Year-in-Saratoga Birthday to TC Bakery-Paris! They turned one more than a few weeks ago, and invited a few folks up to celebrate the joyous occasion.
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Our fabulous hosts getting ready. I went with someone who is very particular about getting there on time, so we arrived right when the ball began.
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They put out a few trays of some of their popular treats.
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Like their delicious sandwiches, with baguettes made in-store. So delicious.
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They were also deputing their new Gateau de Reves (dream cake!). I’m not a huge chocolate fan, but this rich and decadent affair was hard not to like. TC describes it is “4 layers of Rich chocolate cake, 2 layers of dark chocolate mousse, and a layer of our whipped salted caramel. A second coat of whipped caramel on the outside of the cake, and glazed with our rich Valrhona Cristal Glaze“. I would also be one happy camper with a piping bag full of whipped salted caramel. Fantastic.
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The shop was also open, so I took the opportunity to buy one of the ispahan macaron ($6.95). A softball-sized macaron is filled with rose and lychee infused buttercream, and dotted with fresh raspberries along the border.
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The deliciousness ROI  is high with this confection.
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I’m also not quite sure what the portion size is on this, but I’m assuming it’s not an entire macaron. Still, I soldiered on.
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The fine folks at TC Bakery-Paris were also kind enough to send a few local food bloggers off with goodie bags. I get such warm fuzzies when I see goodie bags! They remind me of childhood. Except these are filling with artfully crafted treats (and a judicious amount, thankfully).
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Toffee pieces and olive sables! The olive sables straddle savory and sweet in a wonderful way. The dough itself is lightly sweet, and the olives hold up well to the slight sweetness of the dough. The size of the olives also gives just the right amount of salinity without being overpowering.

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Two new doughnut shops in just a few months. Nibble, Inc. opened in Troy recently, and Cider Belly Doughnuts opened in Albany. If you’re one of those “I don’t cross the river” type folks, well, then good – there are new doughnut shops on both sides of the river. The hype machine is going strong for these two new shops, with love for both doughnut shops throughout the blogger community. The Fuj has much love for Nibble, Inc. I wish I shared his enthusiasm for these doughnuts, but they don’t light me up. While Fuj finds them to have a crisp exterior and light/fluffy interior, I’ve found them to be on the dense and tough side. Nibble’s doughnuts are unlike any other doughnut in the area, in that they use potato in the mix. I suspect that Nibble is the doughnut shop for folks who don’t like traditional doughnuts, as one of the owners says she wasn’t a fan of doughnuts before trying this type of potato-dough doughnut in Portland, ME.

Nibble doughnuts don’t hold up well to time, getting denser and denser as the day goes on. Conversely, if you like dense doughnuts, then they hold up very well. The density is what really gets me with the Nibble doughnuts, and isn’t really my thing – my ideal doughnuts are light, ethereal things. Albany John picked up this mixed dozen (missing one, hee hee – couldn’t help myself), and they were a real jaw workout come nightfall and the next morning. They were very nicely fried and non-greasy, though, and I think they’d make a fine doughnut-based bread pudding. I’m looking forward to seeing what non-doughnut offerings Nibble has coming up in the future – they definitely have promise.

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Cider Belly Doughnuts is on South Pearl Street in Albany and is sadly only really open to walk-in traffic during M-F hours, with some Saturday morning hours open for pre-orders. I tried this doughnut during meatball fest one weekend in Albany, and OMG, it was love at first bite. They kind of reminded me of Krispy Kreme in that they had a nice crunchy shell, and the icing had a good crisp exterior, and the interior was very light and poofy. I went in a bought several more doughnuts – they even have “Belly Flops” pre-bagged on the counter, which are discounted frankendoughnuts that don’t quite make the cut (ie, imperfect in shape, but still perfectly tasty). The doughnuts I bought stayed light and crispy into the evening. I really like these doughnuts, especially with the different glazes (maple is really well executed).

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I couldn’t wait to get back to Shwe Mandalay for a second go-round after my first visit. This second visit didn’t go as smoothly – we were the only table in there on a Friday night and service was slow and a bit disjointed. The food is still fabulous, though I’m worried about how little business I’ve seen in Shwe Mandalay. Please, people – get in the doors of Shwe Mandalay. It’s delicious, cheap, and a new realm of flavors for the Cap Region!

Another order of fried squash above. Bu Tee Kyaw $5.
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Southern Shan Sausage, $5. Perfect little beef & pork sausage balls.
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Fried sliced onion, $5. I love the batter at Shwe Mandalay – very light, like a combination of beer batter & tempura. Great for frying. Light and crunchy.
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Side dish of dried salted fish, $7, which I think is mostly an Albany Jane love. I ate most of this dish. They changed the presentation from the first time I had this – instead of flat strips the fish was broken up into more bite-sized or smaller pieces.
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Butter Rice & Chicken Curry, $7. All this for SEVEN DOLLARS! Super rich rice with a hearty chicken curry.
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La Phat Thote. Tea leaf salad, $6.50. This time it was covered in dried shrimp, which was unfortunate because one of the folks in our party had a shellfish allergy. The shrimp itself were tasty – crunchy and not too salty or briny, though the salad didn’t really need it.
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Rice & Tea Leaf Salad $6. This was more of a rice dish than a salad type dish, but tasty all the same.
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Black Curry, $8. Pork curry with black bean paste (this is Chinese-style fermented black beans, not black beans). This was a rich dish, but so good (also came with large plate of rice).
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Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup, $6.00. A light, but filling broth with a lightly boiled egg (the yellow is from the yolk).

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