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Wow, the Tavern Pizza Tour was in February? Where does the time go. It seems my days cannot have enough hours lately. Yikes. Any way, The Fuss Man organized a small outing of folks to go eat pizza at a bunch of taverns. I like these epic afternoons because it really lets you compare different places all in one day.

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First up with Hill Street Cafe. This place has never really stuck out for me, but zomg, now I really want their pizza. It is a pizza I am incapable of making at home, mainly because I don’t think I can use the amount of oil they use in their crust in good conscience. The pizza was baked on a screen, which let any extra oil they oiled the screen with, plus the oil from the pizza fry the end crust into this delicious piece of heaven. Seriously, so good. And there was a ton of cheese. It was a hearty pizza, the crust flopped under the weight of the cheese and toppings.

Then somehow I forgot to take a picture at Deacon Blue’s.  We got the scampi pizza, which was okay, but would probably have been better with a few less seafood toppings (like the fake crab). Put that one on  the “maybe return to” list.
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Next up with the Purple Pub, where I was the lone dissenter against their pizza. What did we get? Mushroom & sausage? Dan B. is convinced I hate onions in sauce, but I love onions, so I think it’s something else. For me, there was too much crust, and just a smattering of cheese. Ah well, no matter, more pizza to taste.
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Ralph’s Tavern! Pepperoni and mushroom. I love how they crisped up a lot of the pepperoni (my ideal kind of ‘roni). I like Ralph’s. They have a soft, but still pretty thin crust (as thin as tavern crusts get) that stays crisp on the exterior, but soft inside. Good ratio of cheese-sauce-toppings. And man, try their mozzarella sticks if you’re in there.
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Last stop was Smith’s Tavern out in Voorheesville. We got the Villager, which was comprised of a lot of toppings that are not my favorite, so I’d like to go back and try it again.

I suspect I am not a fan of the ultra-poofy style round tavern crusts and more of a rectangular tavern pizza kind of gal. Unless you basically fry your crust in oil (Hill Street Cafe), and then I love you above everything else.

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Gung Hey Fat Choy! I spent Chinese New Year in Flushing with some of the family. Eating, obviously. Squid Salad from Cutting Board (37-20 Prince St, Flushing, NY 11354). This place wasn’t super packed despite the CNY weekend crowds, but service was sl-oooowwww and flighty. Salad was ok, except for the tip of the squid which was charred on their gas/propane grill. Bleh.

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Ok – main event! Dinner with my whole family! We wound up once again at Jin Cheng (142-38 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354), and no one knows why. When Yeh-Yeh was alive, we would go here because it was literally the closest restaurant to his condo. It’s good for lunch, but they can’t handle a crowd. All of us “kids” bemoaned this like the whiny little food brats we are “Ugh, why are we going back?! Yeh-Yeh’s not here! Why didn’t we make reservations somewhere else?!” to which my frazzled dad (and now patriarch) responded “I don’t know! We just somehow keep ending up back there! Hopefully next year we’ll go somewhere else.”. But we lucked out with a 6 pm (early) reservation, so dinner was surprisingly not terrible.

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Ginger scallion lobster. A little rubbery and overcooked in places, but not too bad.

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Platters of food. The big bowl on the left had steamed/boiled chicken, shrimp, abalone, and some veggies. Whole steamed flounder, some sickly sweet crispy pork dish, “crispy” skin chicken (not very crispy), beef, and walnut shrimp were also on the menu. Nothing really stood out as great, but we were all happy nothing was as bad as it has been in years past.

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Snacks from Tous Les Jours on the way out. Croque Msr, and some baos.

So it was awesome seeing family, but I needed another “good” lunar new year dinner. So once I came back up, I gathered a few friends to join me at Ala Shanghai for Chinese New Year part 2.

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Some freebie fava beans as an app when we first sat down. It was bustling when we went on a week night. We even had to wait! I like it when local small restaurants a busy like that.

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Scallion pancakes!

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Har gow like whaaat?

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Salt & pepper squid. I was never super crazy about Ala Shanghai’s salt & pepper batter before (it was a poofier type of batter), but it’s now a thinner batter that I think is just a bit crispier. Mmm.

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Spicy beef, too!

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Vegetarian pork chops, though I think they taste more like vegetarian fish. Either way, can’t go wrong with battering and frying layers of tofu skin. So good!

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From the specials menu: Rice cakes with jalapeno and scallop. Holy moly, they were not messing around with the jalapeno! So good, but so spicy! This was the dish I saw on the lunar new year specials list and thought “I MUST HAVE THIS.” It didn’t disappoint. Chewy rice cakes, scallops, and spicy jalapenos – very good combination.

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Tofu noodles, edamame, and salted veggie also a must.

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Broccoli with black and white fungus – this was the dish that caught Albany John’s eye from the specials menu, and it was also a hit. Ala Shanghai gets their woodear so tender. All of this covered with a light, clear sauce. I wish this would go on their regular menu – it was so good! Very fresh, with a lot of texture.

Happy New Year! I wish you lots of prosperity!


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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.

 

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Yup, super late on this summary. Checked out the Tavern Noodle pop up with Chopsticks Optional and some other friends.

So. The good. It’s cool that there was a pop up shop. Novelty, and it’s likely not coming back.
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Spicy miso ramen was a dud. $10 was a bit much for this, especially since it didn’t taste much like miso, or much of anything. Just kind of a weak veggie/mushroomy broth.
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Pork ramen was tasty, but still a  bit high at $12. Rich and flavorful broth. Noodles were a little too underdone for my tastes. Chopsticks Optional ordered the entire menu.

We had a “large order” meaning, we ordered one of everything, and the expos seemed to have a lot of difficulty in getting it all together for some reason. I’m not sure why. We waited up at the front for a long time while others who ordered after us got their orders. The ramens were ready first, so it was the two baos, soy egg, and spicy radish that took forever to come out, even though they were sending out these orders for people who just ordered say, two ramens and two baos after us. Not the biggest deal in the world, but not a great expo running the helm.

Soy egg was too sweet, spicy radish needed some sugar to help balance the cutting blandness that daikon often has. The spicy radish was probably the most disappointing dish and very poorly executed. Baos were poorly executed (huge chunks of raw ginger in the pork baos). These sides could have been really good, but they just missed a few steps in execution.

Any way, it was a bit of a bummer to have so many misses on the menu, but the pork ramen was definitely solid. If they bring one dish on Peck’s Arcade, I hope it’s the pork ramen.
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And then Chopsticks Optional busted out some Cider Belly dougnuts, and all was right with the world.

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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Went to Amherst for an early Thanksgving with the in laws. So much delicious food. Papa Amherst got this as a freebie turkey, and brined it into this delicious beauty. That man can make anything taste awesome.
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Looks like I was so excited for dinner, I forgot to take pics of the rest of dinner. But so good.
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And dessert! Blueberry pie, pecan pie, and white chocolate pie with quince drizzle.
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Papa Amherst makes such good pie crust. Crispy, flaky. So good.
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I brought a white chocolate tart with a bit of quince and rosewater jam. The white chocolate didn’t quite set up at room temp (too much cream), but the metered dose of quince + rose jam cut the richness a bit.
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Papa Amherst’s mom used to make quite the spread during the holidays, and it’s a trait he’s picked up. He also made pecan pie (!). So good!
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New fireplace
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And pensive pup photos.
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Queen of the blankets. All of them.
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We checked out Oriental Flavor in Amherst, the new Sichuan/Canto restaurant downtown. The name is super generic, but they’re legit Chinese food in Amherst.
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They had BEEF TENDON on the menu! $8 or $9 for a plate of spicy Sichuan-style beef tendon served cold and chewy. It would have been a bit much for one person to eat, so it’s a nice app to split for a group.
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They also had har gow and xiao long bao on the menu. I was skeptical, since it’s a pretty small restaurant (give or take a about a dozen tables) and it wasn’t super busy, but I asked and they said they made them both fresh daily. The har gow were very good! Pliant and supple-soft rice noodle exterior, and a fresh shrimp interior.
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The prices are a bit on the high side, but hey, it’s cheaper than a road trip to Flushing if you live in Western Mass. Soy bean wrapped pork is in the background. This was too sweet and I suggest skipping it if you’ve had it before. Turnip cakes were good and worth ordering – nice crispness to them. Siu mai in the front.
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Go for the har gow, skip the XLB. In some ways, the per-prepared ones may have been a better way to go than putting forth the effort of making these themselves. They seemed to be made with wonton skin type wrappers, which meant they all cracked and lost all soup, kind of defeating the purpose of ordering soup dumplings.XLB are the popular kids in dim sum now, so I get why they’re on the menu. The meat inside was a dense meatball, and a bit on the sweet/bland side. Though to be fair, they are taking on two very difficult dim sum dishes to make from different regions of China. Har Gow = Cantonese/Hong Kong style. Xiao Long Bao soup dumplings = Shanghai. I’d be more surprised if they did both very well. They could also probably scratch this from their menu, since they’re more disappointing if you’ve ever had a true soup dumpling.
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Seasonal veggies were also very nice. I wound up eating most of the garlic ^_^

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After that, the ladies split off and went shopping for horrific christmas gifts crafts.

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As opposed to the slutty earrings I’ve been wearing all these years. Just kidding, I hardly ever wear earrings, and even then it’s mostly stainless steel industrial/unbreakable stuff.
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They also had sweet straw/hay sculptures.
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