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veggies

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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.

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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I don’t have many bucket list items. But I’ve read tale of Google’s corporate kitchens, and it’s been in the back of my mind to check out for some time. One of my friends from Albany took a job in their Chelsea offices in NYC. While I was sad to lose my friend, I was a wee bit happy to have an “in” to Google’s NYC office foods.
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Lego land! No pics of Googlers were allowed, which was great, because people are never my photo target, just food. This was when you first walked in past reception – a lego themed area as a nod to how they first started building computers in a garage with legos.
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Snacks, candy, and fresh fruit. They even had fresh rambutan!
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Lego heads filled with candy. Google owns the building across from Chelsea Market entirely (home to Food Network, and Google’s own YouTube), so the layout is pretty maze-y. But every floor has a few food areas. Oh, it was so cool!
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We settled on the top Google floor kitchen for lunch. They had griddled fish and sauteed zucchini. Yum!
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And also wood fired but tough pizza. Still, very cool to see the execution and scale. So many worker bees, and yet the turnaround was very quick.
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More snacking on a lower level with outdoor seating. They had creme brulee! CREME BRULEE! and more fresh fruit, and…. oh man. So awesome. If I worked at Google I would have a hard time wanting to go out to eat. This was great cafeteria food, and so many healthy options, too.
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And even sushi! It was on par with what you’d pick up at a supermarket, or other pre-fab sushi, but still. How awesome is it to just be able to leave your desk, grab a quick roll, and get back to work? Man, very cool, and better fuel than candy or processed foods.

Oh, and their coffee bar with baristas? So totes amaze. I had an almond milk cappuccino with Counter Culture coffee when I first walked in. It seems like a nice place to work for productive people – everyone was motivated and working hard, but friendly and very polite, too. I know those Googlers work their patooties off, and it still seems like a really neat place. There aren’t really any offices, everyone is out in the open, working collaboratively, and there are private booths for phone calls and video calls, in addition to delightfully quirky conference rooms. Any way, I’ll stop raving about their corporate culture and structure. If you’ve got a friend you can visit at Google in NYC, you should give them a ring. It’s an awesome place to visit.

 

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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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Saratoga isn’t so far for me, and yet I have a problem with getting to many local businesses during the hours they are open. I was happy I’ve made it to Saratoga at least once for TC Paris!
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Eclair & a Paris Brest. Their pate a choux is fantastic – it stays crisp even when filled with delicious custard and creme. The chocolate on the eclair had a judicious amount of sweetness, and was perfect with their vanilla bean pastry cream filling.
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And the Paris Brest. Oh. A pate a choux circle piped with a candied hazelnut buttercream. I don’t know if one of these circles is a serving, but I ate the whole thing in one go. It was just. So. Good.  It’s like an oversized doughnut, in terms of size. It’s probably meant for at least two. But just eat it until you feel sated. So good.
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Lily bulb with asparagus and ginko ($13) at Ala Shanghai. The ginkos were mild and soft, went well with the asparagus, which still retained some crunchiness.
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Yum – it’s a great dish for summer!

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I love Ethiopian food. It’s something that we have absolutely NONE of in Albany, so whenever I’m near a place with Ethiopian food, I will always choose Ethiopian. Whenever I’m in NYC I can never manage to get away to Manhattan for Ethiopian food. But on my most recent visit I managed to convince my Dad, his girlfriend, and uncle to try Ethiopian food at Awash on the Upper West Side.

We drove there from Flushing in about a half hour, found (free) street parking after paying for parking (of course), and were seated immediately. The interior is gorgeous. Very romantic and lots of low lighting.
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Here’s the injera and freebie sides that came with what we ordered. Since we were so many people they spread out our meals across two plates.
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Plate two.
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So what did we order?

Starting at the red stuff on the left, we got:
Key Sir Afcha (carrots, beets, and potato)
Awash Tibs (grilled beef)
More Key Sir Afcha
Gomen Besiga (lamb, collards, onions)
Free cabbage and carrot dish
Free lentil dish
Shiro (chickpeas and split peas with tomato and onion)
Center: Awash Chicken

We all LOVED the Gomen Besiga. That was just a fantastic combination of flavors. Lamby goodness, collards, and onions with delicious Ethiopian butter and false cardamom. Mmm. Just fantastic. It was all good, but this was a standout dish.

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I also had to order the kitfo (raw beef), which was also good, if a bit heavy on the butter.

The injera was soft and spongy, but not too moist or sour. It was definitely a good intro injera to folks new to Ethiopian food. I’ve had it more sour than this preparation, but really it’s all about the texture for me and this was great. Soft with a little bit of chewy pliancy to it, but not tough or hard.

We had a few leftovers that we took with us. Their menu is a bit out of date. Prices are a few dollars higher per item than listed, and their physical menu touts a vegan meal available as well.

All that plus three glasses of Ethiopian wine was $160 with 20% post-tax gratuity included.

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