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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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Want fresh handmade dumplings? Northeast Dumpling House is your bet for freshly made squidgy dumplings. I think they still have some kinks to work out, but overall they’re a nice new addition to the Chinese food scene in Albany. Here are my experiences on two recent visits:

First visit:

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Woodear and cucumber on the left (aka cucumber & black fungus $5.99) and boiled dumplings on the right.

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I went with about 6 other people on this first trip – you want to bring a large group when you go to Northeast Dumpling House because there are 15 dumplings to each order. It’s kind of a crazy-large amount and it’s kind of weird that there isn’t a smaller amount available. Boiled dumplings are $7.99-8.99 and fried are $8.99-$9.99 per order. There’s beef, pork, and lamb options, and they are all pretty solid. I think my favorite so far are the pork and chive boiled dumplings.

 

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We got an order of the spiced potato and special pancakes on Jeff’s recommendation from All Over Albany’s Eat This article. They didn’t ask us how we wanted the potatoes done (hot or cold) and they came out hot. Eh, they were okay, but they tasted pretty bland to me, even with the occasional pepper slice in there to jazz things up.

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BAOS. BAOS. Get the baos when you go here. We got several orders (2 per order, $2.99) of beef baos and lamb baos. These buns were nice and squidgy (squidgy is very good when it comes to baos and dumplings), tender, fluffy soft baos, and there was a bit of juice inside each bao. They also weren’t stingy with the meat inside! I hate it when you get a big bao, and you’re all like “YEAH, bao!” and then it winds up being 90% bun with a dollop of meat inside.

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You also really, REALLY want to get the Spicy Sauce & Squid ($6.99). Most of their side dish items are cold, and this is no exception. Hot pepper slices, chili oil, chili flakes, and perfectly cooked squid.

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The fried beef dumplings were some of my favorite fried dumplings. I think the meat in the dumplings is a little smooth for my liking, but this is just my personal preference. I generally prefer coarse grinds of meat.

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2nd Visit:

Daniel B. came up for a weekend away from New Jersey and had Northeast Dumpling House on his list. Albany John, Jon in Albany, Chef Brian Bowden and his gal, and another pair of friends joined us on a Saturday night for a festival of eating.

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Daniel wanted to try the spicy potato & special pancake. I passed since it wasn’t my jam the first time around. The pancakes are cool, but I’m just not down with the potato.

We also got to try the pork & pickled veggie soup. That was really rockin’ soup, and I’m willing to bet the noodles are hand made since they’re making the dumplings to order. They were tender, but still had that delicate chew fresh noodles get. The broth was also solidly porky and balanced, although a jab of sriracha didn’t hurt.


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Cucumber & dried tofu ($5.99). This was sheet bean curd, and I think this should be easy to recreate at home. Basically just tofu sheet, cucumber, carrots, chili flakes, and a dash of chili oil and vinegar. Pretty refreshing to me, but meh to others.

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The beef omasum ($6.99) was another awesome dish from their cold side dishes menu. The tripe was very well prepared  with just enough heat to make it interesting (I wouldn’t really call it spicy. Yes, there was a little heat occasionally, but nothing that had me reaching for the tea). The texture was both tender and chewy, if that makes any sense. Sometimes tripe can be chewy almost to the point of being like chewing gum, but this was not like that. This had something more of a tendon amount of chew to it.

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The fry job on the dumplings was pretty heavy this time, lots of slick oil on the plates. We pretty much ordered one of each dumpling this time.

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More spicy squid!

Another new thing we tried was the shrimp and egg boiled dumpling, which I enjoyed. The egg was pretty muted, it was more like a shrimp and veggie dumpling.

NE Dumps (my nickname for them) is still in the “new” phase. Both times I went in they were pretty dead. Which is kind of crazy for a weekend.

Here’s some areas for improvement:
Customer service – both times we had to flag down the waiter to order, then to get the checks. Tea refill on the first visit was inattentive on the first visit, and nonexistent on the 2nd visit, even though I did the “move the lid” trick to signal that we were empty. This slowness in service is also mind boggling to me, because Chinese service is usually quick, quick, quick. The dishes came out quickly once we ordered, this seems to just be a FOH issue. I’m guessing they are new to owning a restaurant and still learning the ropes as service was a little better on the 2nd visit.

Some specials listed only in Chinese. I am a “bad Chinese” and can’t read most characters, so like many of their other non-Chinese customers, I have no idea what the specials are on the board.
Consistency. The fried dumplings on the first visit were much less greasy than on the 2nd visit. The baos on the 2nd visit weren’t quite as tender as the first visit, and there was no soupy goodness inside.

Dumpling orders in quantities of 15. Orders of 8-10 would be easier for smaller groups of people to try more variety. The “Bull Paddywack” aka beef tendon is already crossed off the menu.

Cool Stuff they have going on :
BYOB

No huge rush, which is different from the “turn-n-burn” style most other Chinese restaurants have, so you’ll be fine to linger at the moment.

Some really delicious dishes on the “Side Dishes” menu that aren’t on any other menu in the Captial Region. I’ve never been much of a tripe fan, but NE Dump’s take on tripe (omasum) will bring me back here to try it out.

Cheap. If you go with a group, you can order most of the menu and still walk out for under $20 per person with tip.

Hand made to order dumplings!

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Some of my zany friends decided to have a friendly little soup competition. It wound up being 7 people! I decided to judge, because it means I could eat all of the soups. :) It was a good competition to judge.

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The first soup was a Thai-style curry coconut soup with squid, shrimp, mushrooms, and some caramelized onions, served with a cocktail on the side. Not a bad way to start of the competition, and the curry heat was tempered well with the coconut milk.

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A corn-centric soup with homemade creamed corn and roasted corn/peppers. The corn bits I got erred more on the burnt side and not roasted, and the oil was a little heavy for me from this soup.

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This was Albany John’s rustic soup – french lentils, onions, cabbage, garlic, and a slice of bacon. Not my fave soup because of the cabbage, but the other judges liked it.

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Italian Divorce Soup. Loved the name – so cute! Veggies, hand crushed tomato sauce, sausage, chickpeas, ditalini. Mmm, what’s not to love? This was such a great winter soup.

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The “prettiest presentation” soup!

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I now require all soups to be served to me in cocktail glasses. This was a slow cooker stewy soup with squash (butternut in this case, but any hard squash can be used), turkey, chickpeas, and an awesomely bright parsley sauce on top. This wound up winning.

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A vegetarian soup – apples, asparagus, and squash. This was a pretty rockin’ veggie and sweet soup.

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This was a potato garlic soup that came in a very close 2nd place. Oh man, was this an awesome soup. Roasted garlic (a LOT), a browned roux base, potatoes, and lots of cheese. So rich and a great winter soup.

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After my 24 hours in NJ, I headed to Flushing to see my Uncle. We hung out for a bit, and then headed to the food court at the New World Mall for a bite to eat. Flushing mall food courts are freaking awesome – they’re stalls for single businesses. Which means a huge selection of cheap eats! Mask is one of the newest restaurants in the food court, and they are running a special – $9.99 for your own personal hot pot (chicken, beef, lamb, fish, or vegetable) plus a drink. That is so crazy cheap.

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Mask has their own special hot pot tables set up near their stall at the food court. Here’s what they look like before you get your hot pot set up.

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And here’s what they look like after. Woah food. I got the lamb slices on the left, and a huge basket of veggies on the right. The lamb slices were frozen. I’m wondering if they pre-portioned them out. The lamb flavor itself was a little on the gamey side, but added nice flavor to the weak bone broth my Uncle and I both got. They also had a spicy kim chee based broth and one other broth I forget at the moment. I didn’t feel like being all that adventurous with soup flavor with the drive home looming in front of me.

There were so many veggies in that basket – a bunch of crunchy green lettuce leaves, sweet potato slices, tofu, one weird wedge of tomato, sweet potato noodles, enoki mushrooms, and tons of bok choy quarters. It was a great way to cap a weekend of dietary indulgence.

There’s also a make your own sauce bar. My uncle made me his blend, which was way on the garlicky side and something my sister would have loved. I mean, if she ate meat or any of the other components of the sauce.

But this was an awesome find in Flushing. If you pay in cash they don’t charge sales tax. Cheap, super filling dinner for $10. This is especially good for the people who don’t like sharing food, germs, or both with traditional hot pot.

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Dessert time! This place had a bunch of mango desserts, and was definitely a younger type of place. They even had dine-in where you tipped inside. Interesting, and lots of young people on dates here.

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I got a mango pancake. It’s an eggy pancakey wrapper over whipped cream and mango. Super yum. Something like $4-5 for two big squares.

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My uncle got this mango soupy pudding thing for dessert. Something like $6 for a big bowl. This is probably one of the pricier places in the food court, if that tells you anything.

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Mango pancake interior. So full of yes.

What a good weekend filled with food, friends, and family. I really like solo road trips every now and then. Not every weekend, but once every month or two they’re great for clearing my head. The freedom of the open road, driving my very own car, blasting my favorite crappy tunes, going off to have edible adventures and seeing people I care about that bring me joy.

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When the temperatures dip, I start craving hot, comforting foods. One especially frigid night, I went to Seoul Korean Restaurant in Peter Harris Plaza. The interior is pretty sparse so far, but brightly lit and inviting all the same.

Service was good – friendly and on-point but not in-your-face. 5 banchan were on the menu that day – lightly cooked sesame oil’ed veggies and a white seaweed salad on the top row. Spicy radish, kimchee, and spicy cucumbers/onions in the bottom row. Very well flavored, all of it. I was especially fond of the white seaweed – it tasted a touch creamy and sweet, with an addictive texture that was part chew, part crunch.

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The soups are huge, and in the $12 price range. A great value for the amount you get, and the flavors they yield. Tteok Manduguk in the foreground, and I think it’s yook gye jang in the background – a spicy beef soup (comes with rice).

Tteok Manduguk is awesome – mandoo/mandu dumplings in a light bone-style broth, then add in tteok. Oh man, I can’t think of a way to make a soup much more awesome. Dumplings + soup = Awesome. Dumplings + Soup + Chewy Rice Cakes = Awesome^n
So good, and so piping hot. The dumplings had delicate skins that held up well to being in a soup (good structural integrity, no disintegrating)

I’m foggy on the name of the soup in the back, but it was a spicy beef soup that came with a side of steamed rice. It was spicy and well flavored, and not so hot that you’d start sweating while eating it.

Overall, I can’t wait to get back and try more of their dishes. The menu is small and focused, and the food was satisfyingly hearty without being heavy. But I can’t imagine trying more than just the soups on my own – time to go back with a group to tackle more of the appetizers and entrees!

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Since moving to Latham, one of Albany John’s favorite new food spots is Euro Deli and Market at 106 Wade Road Extension. The staff are super friendly, helpful, and always so sharp looking.

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When you first walk in there are rows of dry goods and shelf-stable groceries on the left. Pickled things, candy things, tea things, giant wafer discs.

There are freezers in the back with some breads (they have a few fresh loaves of bread, too) and vareneky and pierogi.

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There’s a deli counter to the right of the store with a bunch of cured meats, cheeses, and sausages. You can get them sliced or made into a sandwich. They also have hot food options that they prepare very quickly. Their food is so cheap! All of the food we ordered in this post came to about $20, and we ordered a ton of food.

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Even further to the right of the deli was a small dessert counter with paczi they brought up from a bakery in NYC (the person behind the counter couldn’t remember the name). Filled with prune and mixed berries.

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One grilled kielbasa (they split it horizontally) with hot sauerkraut and toasted rye. This is something crazy like $4.

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This is their big combo platter and it might be $7.99 (I kind of forget the prices of everything, just that all of the food we got was about $20.

It’s 4 pierogies (so tender and… pillowy perfection with a little crisping on the exterior), one grilled and horizontally split kielbasa, bigos, and a stuffed cabbage. Albany John loves stuffed cabbage, so he loved this. I thought it was a little heavy on the rice, and but then again I’ve never been much of a stuffed cabbage fan.

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Pancakes of potato with sour cream. So, so good! Crispy exterior, creamy interior.

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Borscht. A gigantic tub of borscht. Beets, carrots, and I think broad beans. Light, earthy/beety & peppery flavor to the broth.

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Paczi. We bought one of each of the flavors. These were likely a day old, so they weren’t that great. Kind of heavy, tough, and stale tasting. Still good with a cup of tea, but pretty dense things on their own.

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And a Maciek chocolate bar to wrap things up. I thought this was like a caramel filled bar, but it was kind of like honey with just a hint of anise/fennel/licorice at the end. Albany John liked it, though.

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Husbear and I just closed on a house, and the only way I could think of celebrating was enjoying a meal at Ala Shanghai the very night we closed. Seafood Siu Mai (shrimp & scallops $6). A little spongy, but nice bits of scallops in the mix.

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Albany John got the spiciest dish he’s tried yet at Ala Shanghai – M14 Sliced Pork in Spicy Broth ($14). Slices of pork and napa cabbage on top of vermicelli noodles, swimming in a flavorful and very spicy broth. I could only manage a few bites! I like the flavor, but I could only tolerate a little bit!

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It’s such a gigantic bowl, we were relieved that there was a pile of vermicelli noodles underneath. They were also great for sopping up the spicy broth.

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Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli, $11) for a veggie. This was amazing! So fresh and gently cooked. If you are craving something green, this is the dish to get. The stalks are my favorite part, and these were cooked perfectly for me: lightly cooked through so they still retained a bit of a crunch, but were also just a little bit of fresh sweetness. This is the way I wish I could cook them at home.The flavor was pure gai lan and garlic, nothing else. Simplicity. Perfect veggies.

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I thought a whole fish would be a good dish to get to celebrate this big, new step in our lives. One steamed whole flounder ($24) with ginger, scallions, and light soy sauce It came out whole.

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…And the bones were removed table-side with lightning speed. This both fillets the fish efficiently, maximizing the amount of fish available, while leaving the whole fish intact.

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The flounder was soft, tender, and cooked just enough. It had a clean salinity to it, which was complemented by the light soy sauce. I want to stress that this was a light soy sauce, and not too salty or overpowering for this delightfully delicate fish. The meat was downright buttery, especially with some of the soy sauce.

And don’t forget to nibble on the tail, head, and all of the fins! There is tons of flavor in those sections, you just have to spit out some small bones. Trust me, it’s worth it.

So that was the first night we bought the house. For me it was a nice, hearty yet healthy celebration dinner. I mean, I had mostly the dumplings, flounder, and veggies.

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A few days later, my home repair instructor (Dad) came up to teach me some new skills. He’s pretty cheap as far as a teacher and plumber go – meals and a lodging. He even bought me a few tools. The night he came up we went to Ala Shanghai again for a quick dinner when he heard how close our new house is to Ala Shanghai. Yes, Albany John and I are now Living La Vida Latham. Spicy 8 Jewels as a freebie appetizer.

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Crab Xiao Long Bao ($8). Very soupy, and very thin skins. Joe’s Shanghai – eat your heart out.

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My dad has enjoyed all of Ala Shanghai’s dishes, but he has an especially fond place in his heart for their soups. He got the smoked fish soup ($8), which serves up a really hearty portion of smoked, bony fish. The smoked fish is quite the Shanghaiese dish. It’s very smoky and sweet for Cantonese palates, which are used to… some may say “blander”, but I will say “simpler” flavors, hee hee. Dad wasn’t a fan of all of the bones in the fish, and thought it was a lot of flavors going on. But those noodles and that soup broth – just perfect.

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Bok choy for dad’s veggie choice of the night! Again, like the gai lan above, just perfectly cooked. Little bit of crunch, little bit of fresh sweetness, and very refreshing.

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Albany John’s Aunt and cousin were visiting NYC from California one weekend recently. Albany John and I took Megabus down, and it was hands down my worst experience with them to date. I will probably not use them again in the future because of how poor the service was. Their bus was 90+ minutes late with a heat index of 100+F  with only one update as I was driving there saying that the bus would be delayed, but not why, and just to stay in the area nearby the bus stop. The driver had extremely limited and poor communication skills, and there was a loose, capped syringe with needle on the bus entry way. When someone mentioned this to the driver, his only response was a frazzled shrug and “Heh, I don’t do drugs. I don’t do drugs!” The ride back was thankfully without incident, but after I emailed customer service, I only received a generic reply 10 days later that answered absolutely none of my questions or concerns. The main reasons I take Megabus is because of their timeliness, safety, and my previously positive experiences with them, but this was so awful… I’ll just drive myself next time I even think about going to NYC. Any way, once bitten twice shy, you know? Thanks for letting me vent.

So after all of that fun (the bus was also jam-packed, roasting), I made my way over to Copia to meet a friend where some of her friends were guest bartending with cheap (for NYC) drink specials.

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And then we continued the party at some pub place after that.

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Tasty fried calamari

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After that we huffed it to Rego Park to crash with Maka & CVS. Lunch the next day was from this place called Asian Bowl. They do some Thai & Chinese dishes. Sure, the name’s a little hokey, but they made some dishes that weren’t very heavy, and they’re all Kosher (no piggie :’( ), and only use olive oil.

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Albany John got Pad Thai and they had some really meaty shrimp in it. The chicken were really thin shreds, though. I thought it was a little heavy with fish sauce, but Albany John really liked it.

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I wasn’t super hungry, so I got some wonton soup, which they use chicken for. Very light, but good simple flavor.

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You know Albany John’s family is in town when we do something other than eating, hee hee. We visited the tenement museum in Manhattan that afternoon.

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Here are some houses that used to be tenements. But aren’t tenements any longer. I thought the tour was a little long, and they seem to really stretch out all of their information through multiple tours, which is unfortunate, because I’d like to be able to see everything in one go, not have to schedule 4 tours to see an entire building.

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Any way, enough with the educational stuff. I managed to convince everyone to walk on up to Big Gay Ice Cream on the East Side.

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The shop is tiny. Like, really tiny. Like, very easily under 400 sq ft tiny.

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So tiny. So very little waiting room. But they are fairly quick.

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I got the Monday Sundae which was a nutella lined waffle cone, soft serve twist, with dulce de leche, sea salt, and whipped cream. I’d read a bunch about them, and perhaps I’d built them up just a bit in my head, because while I enjoyed it, I didn’t think it was all that amazing or soul shaking. The dulce de leche was tasty with the sea salt, but the actual ice cream I didn’t really enjoy. It was okay, but nothing special. I’d say you can skip the Big Gay Ice Cream if you’re coming from Upstate New  York. The toppings are what set this shop apart, if only the ice cream matched it.

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Albany John got a $7 horchata milkshake, and it only dawned on me when we checked out that I’d just spent over $14 on ice cream for two people. Wow, a $7 milkshake makes that $5 milkshake from Pulp Fiction look like a deal.

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It started pouring, so we found the closest restaurant: Caracas for arepas. It was on the same block and reviews looked promising. We were a group of 7, and the guy who sat us told me that they normally don’t seat 7, but since they had the space he’d do it this one time, but they usually don’t. I kind of get the policy, but we 7 were in and out faster than a few other tables of two next to us. Eh, whatever.

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I was starting to drag, when I noticed that they had Blue Bottle coffee on the menu! Yay, my favorite! Unfortunately, this was a really bitter and sour cup. Oh, poor Blue Bottle coffee. All of the other adults went for some kind of boozy concoction, which I heard were quite enjoyable.

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Apps. Soup and fried yucca patties, i think.

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Plantains like woah.

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Arepas galore! These were all under $10 and quite enjoyable. We pretty much ordered half of the menu.

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The next day we wound up in a mall and my stomach reached “Eat something or be a grumpasaurus” level. So Boc Boc Chicken looked like my best option.

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Fair menu prices, and they touted organic chicken. Cool.

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I got the Korean flavored chicken strips/pops. Which were just breaded fried chicken. Sigh. I was hoping for spicy. Or at least some flavor. But otherwise they were fine, just bland. At least they weren’t dry.

Fried calamari at the mall? From a take out counter? And it was good!

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Oh, and if you need a discreet roomie in Rego Park, here’s your guy. These were all over the place outside.

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Boogied out to Flushing on my last day for nibbles with my uncle. We went to Jin Cheng, the place YehYeh used to go to a lot, especially with him. Beef and bitter melon as our nod to Yeh-Yeh.

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Special fried rice, the kind with scallops in it. Not bad for a rice dish.

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My Dad and his lovely lady come upstate to celebrate his birthday. We started off with beer and snacks at The Ruck.

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BBQ wings, with just the right amount of kick. A random afternoon is a great time to hit the Ruck up – it’s pretty empty, and they have free wifi if you need to log on.

For dinner, we went to Taiwan Noodle. My dad loves this place – great home cooking and low, low prices.

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Wood ear with celery on the right, boiled lettuce with oyster sauce on the right. My Dad loves that boiled lettuce dish. After this one was gone, he got a second plate. Personally, I’m not a fan of the flavor or texture iceberg lettuce gets when it’s boiled. Must be a generational thing.

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Pig feet appetizer! So tender and gelatinous.

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Two orders of har gow, because I will always eat the heck out of them, so when there’s more than 2 people, it’s better to get 2 orders when I’m around.

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Two soups – three mushroom and pork chop noodle soups. Tender, fried pork chop – very ample amount of pork chops in that soup! As always, both broths were quite delicate and flavorful. In this weather, non-greasy soups are key.

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Some you tiao crullers – fried and crunchy on the outside, chewy breading on the inside. Yum!

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And a pork belly app to round this meal out. Oh, we also BOYB’ed some beers since they don’t have alcohol on the menu.

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We were going to head to Crisan for a birthday dessert, but got there just after it closed, so we walked across the street The Wine Bar & Bistro on Lark.

We grabbed both menus, and my dad and his chickie both liked their regular menu, so we’ll probably be back the next time they’re in town.

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Our server was a beautiful brunette who overheard us talking quietly about Dad’s birthday and surreptitiously brought out his dessert with a candle in it, while thankfully sparing him the birthday song.

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We all ended up splitting orders of their berry shortbread – crumbly & rich shortbread, lots of berries and whipped cream. Yum.

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