Caputo’s Pizza…A Pleasant Surprise

So the fam and I headed over to Caputo’s Pizza in Clifton Park last night for a quick slice of pizza.  In my humble, snobby Long Islander opinion, they have the best NY style pizza that I’ve tried in the area.  I quickly scarfed down my first slice, J was on his second, and our daughter was happily munching her slice.  I noticed on the board that they have home made soups and I’m a sucker for Pasta Fagioli soup, so I ordered a bowl.  Man, am I glad I did because it was freaking delicious.  It was hearty, the broth was rich and delicious, and the best part were the pieces of proscuitto floating in the soup.  It was hands down, one of the best bowls of pasta fagioli I’ve ever had.  It was just chock full of goodness. Based on that soup, we’re definitely going to go back and try some actual dinner items and hopefully they will measure up.

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Famous Lunch

I have no idea why it took us so long to finally get out butts over to Famous Lunch in Troy.  I regret my procrastination because I loved it.  I loved how old school and kind of divey it was.  I loved all of the regulars chatting away, enjoying their surroundings and each other.

Most of all, I loved the zippy burgers.  Yes, yes I know, Famous Lunch is famous for their meat sauce and their little hotdogs.  Well, I’m going to say, while I enjoyed the little hotdogs and definitely dig the meat sauce, their zippy burgers just totally reeled me in.  I loved the size – which is small and manageable. It’s a thin pattie with really soft bread, a nice melty layer of cheese, some sautéed/fried onions, mustard, a generous dollop of their delicious meat sauce, add some ketchup and you have a freaking delicious burger that gets devoured way too quickly.  I had two of them I loved them so much.

And the fries – I LOVED the fries! They were home-made, hot and there was a nice mix of crispy ones and meaty ones.  I was a happy clam.  Not only do you get some awesome food, but the prices are insanely low. So go there now, don’t waste any more time and check out this Troy landmark.  Remember – cash only!

Star Fruit…

Is like a pretty, exotic apple.  Well that’s what is kind of tastes like at least, with a tropical zing to it.  I highly suggest trying one as I ate my first one in over 20 years.  Light, refreshing, and super pretty, what more could you ask for?

Here are the perfect instructions on how to cut a star fruit: http://thaifood.about.com/od/introtothaicooking/ss/starfruithowto.htm

 

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Date Night in Albany

A very sweet and generous friend of mine offered to babysit Future Foodie, so we took the opportunity to indulge in some culinary delights in Albany for our date night.  First, we headed to TJ’s Cafe, which has the best fried ravioli in town. Hands down. I don’t even know how the rest of the food tastes.  We went to TJ’s a few years ago, I got the ravioli and have never forgotten them.  We plunked ourselves down at the bar, I ordered a dirty vodka martini and promptly ordered my ravioli.  They came out perfectly fried, nice and golden brown.  They are filled with a blend of ricotta and mozzarella, with some chopped jalapenos.  They are served with a marinara sauce and a raspberry sauce, which I thought was totally weird but was absolutely delicious when I tried it.  Poor J got maybe three of the ravioli and I kind of inhaled the rest of them.  YUM.

We then headed over to Van’s Vietnamese to get our Pho fix.  The place was pretty packed, which we were glad to see.  We waited about 10 minutes for a table.  Once we were seated, we both ordered the Pho Chin (Noodles with well done beef brisket) and J ordered the shrimp summer rolls.  He absolutely loves them (I don’t eat shrimp).  According to J, the shrimp are fresh and perfectly cooked and the flavors in the roll itself are perfectly balanced, and then combined with the awesome peanut sauce, he was in summer roll heaven.

When you order the noodles, they always bring out a plate of accoutrements to go  with the dish.  We had a heaping dish of bean sprouts, a few sprigs of cilantro, sliced fresh jalapenos, lime wedges, and a little dish of plum/hoisin? sauce and Sriracha.

Our steaming bowls of noodle and broth came out.  We added in all of those delicious things and dug in.  The Pho was delicious, with a beautiful beef flavor with hints of sweetness, and the vermicelli noodles were just delicious.  The beef itself was really good, and wonderful when dipped in a combination of the plum/hoisin and Sriracha sauces.  We finished the noodles fairly quickly but ended up taking the broth home so we can cook some more noodles up and enjoy another helping of deliciousness.

 

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A real Chinese food experience, right in Latham

The hubs, Future Foodie and I popped into Ala Shanghai in Latham this weekend to give it a try.  We had heard great things about it and J was dying to try their pork soup dumplings.

We were there for lunch and there was a good crowd already enjoying their meals there.  First off, before talking about the food, I have to say that the service was just great.  They were really on top of things and very friendly.  J and I excitedly perused the Shanghainese centric menu.  We ended up ordering the:

Pork Soup Dumplings (we started with one order and gave in to our gluttony and ordered another after devouring the first order)

These were very good soup dumplings.  Nice flavor to the broth and the pork.  The only thing is the actual dumpling skin is a little too thick.  But these were absolutely the best soup dumplings we have had in the Capital Region so we’re not really going to complain.  They served it with the traditional Chinese black vinegar and sliced ginger sauce, which we poured generously over the dumplings.

Shanghai Spring Rolls (again we started with one order and couldn’t stop ourselves from ordering two more)

These were probably some of the best spring rolls I’ve had. Crispy on the outside, not too oily, and the filling was so tasty (cabbage and pork).

Mini Pork Buns

The mini is probably a misnomer since these buns were actually quite big.  We’ve had them at other restaurants where they are small and pan-fried so that they are nice and crispy on the outside.  These were more just like normal buns with some pork inside.  These were our least favorite dish of what we ordered.

Chinese Rice Cakes with Vegetables

This dish was another home run.  The rice cakes were perfectly cooked – soft and chewy.  The flavor was rich and kind of smoky.  Absolutely yummy.  They vegetables – carrots, mushrooms, and Napa cabbage were all delicious and obviously fresh.  Future Foodie was also a fan of this, an extra plus!

General Tsao’s Chicken

Okay, so I totally have a weak spot for this completely inauthentic dish.  So sue me.  But I am so glad I ordered it because it was so darn tasty.  We asked for it to be extra spicy and they definitely delivered on that.  The flavor was delicious and my lips hurt from the spice, but I couldn’t stop eating it. My only quibble is that the quality of the actual chicken could have been better but their General Tsao’s blows away any of the offerings from the run of the mill Chinese take out restaurants that are ubiquitous in the Capital Region.

We will definitely be returning to Ala Shanghai, sooner than later.

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Morrette’s

J and I headed over to Morrette’s today for lunch.  We both had the day off and thought it would be nice to have a nice romantic date at Morrette’s Steak (I’m being completely facetious because while I enjoy eating there, the entire restaurant seems to be covered in grease).  We hadn’t been there in a while and I had a hankering for one of their steak sandwiches as I didn’t get my proper fill in Philly last week.

We both ordered steak sandwiches with American cheese, onions,  jalapenos, and a side of hot sauce.  We also ordered a large fries as our “vegetable” for the meal.  The waitress was really nice and efficient and our food came out in no time.  They are very generous with the portions, and the sandwiches were literally overflowing with the chopped up steak.  We poured on the hot sauce and chowed down.  Overall, the sandwiches are good, just not amazing.  I think the meat could be more flavorful and there really wasn’t enough melted cheese.  We still enjoyed eating the sandwiches though and definitely cleared our plates.  The fries are handcut and crispy but again, to me, were lacking in flavor.

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A Visit to Philly

I was in Philadelphia for work all last week.  The weather was perfect fall weather, cool and crisp.  I also ate pretty well there. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to share, but here’s the rundown of where I ate:

Q BBQ & Tequila:  I went there for lunch.  Ehhh, is my feeling on the place. I got a pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw on top.  It was just okay.  None of the three bbq sauces were very good either.  On the plus side, they pour on the fries, literally, my entire tin plate was covered in french fries.

Aqua:  A bunch of friends and I went to Aqua for dinner, I was in the mood for some good Thai/Asian food.  The restaurant was nicely decorated although completely empty besides our party. It is a BYOB (a big thing I totally love about Philly is the proliferation of BYOB restaurants).  I would say if you go to Aqua, skip the dumplings, and order the Beef Chow Fun.  The dumplings were a play on soup dumplings but the pork was not so tender.  The chow fun on the other hand was delicious, the beef was tender, and it wasn’t too greasy.

Salento:  We had a girl’s night out at Salento (another BYOB).  Again, the restaurant was almost empty but the service was fantastic.  They have a $27 prix fixe menu that most of my friends went with.  I would say that the food is consistently good and the portions are very generous.  A couple of my friends ordered mussels and calamari and they were super happy with those as appetizers.  I ordered an arugula salad with a balsamic vinaigrette and it was exactly what I wanted, light and fresh.  For an entrée, I had the spaghetti Bolognese, which was good, although a bit on the salty side.  Overall, a great experience, and it kind of puzzled us that there weren’t more people at the restaurant.

Pat’s King of Steaks: We couldn’t leave Philly without eating a cheese steak or two.  So we headed to Pat’s.  My friend and I split a cheese wiz with onions cheese steak. It was very good.  The meat was tender and all of the flavors melded together.   My friend tried a Geno’s cheese steak (the two restaurants are directly across from each other and have a hard-core rivalry going on).  My friend declared Pat’s the better sandwich, and while I didn’t try Geno’s, the meat was kind of gray looking.

Alyan’s Restaurant: A good friend of mine is kind of obsessed with falafel so a group of us headed to Alyan’s to get our falafel on.  We split a large plate of their home-made french fries.  They were so good.  They were obviously double fried, hand cut, and they cooked them with onions and spicy peppers.  Yum.  For my actual meal, I ordered the chicken shish kebab sandwich while everyone else smartly went with the falafel.  My sandwich was underwhelming, the chicken pieces were too large, the yogurt sauce lacked flavor, and overall it was kind of lackluster.  But everyone declared the falafel to be delicious.

El Vez:   El Vez is a trendy Mexican restaurant and by far, my favorite of the bunch.  It had great atmosphere and awesome decor.  It was packed with people and had an old fashioned photo booth that my friends and I took advantage of (I absolutely love those).  We split an order of the nachos and they were really delicious, cheesy and packed with flavor.  The guacamole was pretty good, they had a bunch of different varieties of guacamole that you could order.  I ordered a salad with steak.  The salad itself was crunchy and delicious with a chipotle ranch dressing, but the real star was the steak. It was cooked perfectly and very well marinated.  Each one of my friends was very happy with their meal.  I feel that El Vez is one of those restaurants where it’s hard not to have a great time.

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Restaurant Review: The Wine Bar

We actually had a purpose for being in Toronto and that was to see my favorite band of all time, Stars.  If you have never heard of them, I highly recommend giving them a listen.  They are all sorts of amazing. They have this great indie pop sound, and there are two lead singers, a man and a woman and both have wonderful voices.

We were kind of pooped from our afternoon excursions but we were set on having a good dinner.  We decided on The Wine Bar.  The only reservation we could get was for 6 PM.  The restaurant itself is beautiful, with two large bars on both sides of the restaurant, running the entire length of the restaurant.  On the back wall, there was a huge display of all things pickled and it was color coordinated.  We sat at one of the bars, right in front of the chef’s station, where we could see all the cooking, aka magic happen.

We started with the most important order first, drinks of course.  We both got dirty martinis.  They were pretty pricey at $12 a glass but very good, with tiny delicious olives.  Then we got down to the business of eating.  We ordered french fries with three dipping sauces, home-made ketchup, pesto mayo, and spiced aioli.  The fries were plentiful but a little greasy.  J attributed it to the oil not being hot enough.  I liked the spiced aioli a lot.  We also ordered a creamy tomato soup with pepper croutons.  That was delicious.  Nice and creamy with a nice tangy tomato flavor.  I didn’t think the croutons did much for the soup but we thoroughly enjoyed the bowl.  We also ordered a prosciutto salad with frisee lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and a vinaigrette. It was absolutely fantastic, very light, bright, and the prosciutto just added this delicious smoky, meaty flavor to everything.

As entrees, J ordered a seared mackerel and I ordered the “Miami” short ribs.  Both were great.  J’s mackerel was perfectly cooked and flavored. My short ribs were actually Korean short ribs and they were so freaking tasty.  Full of flavor and tender.  They were a little sweet, salty, and garlicky.  YUM.  So I hate to admit this, but I ended up ordered another order of the ribs because I knew it was going to be a long time before I had ribs like that again.  The waiter thought we were going to order dessert, and looked a little flummoxed when we asked for more ribs.

We ended being at The Wine Bar for two hours! We had such a delightful time there.  We headed over to the concert and Stars totally rocked the place.  It was amazing!

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Restaurant Review: Smoke’s Poutinerie

I was pretty adamant that while in Toronto, we had to try poutine (a French Canadian dish consisting of fries, smothered in gravy and cheese curds).  So after our lunch of delicious ramen, we wandered around Toronto a bit.  I got a bubble tea (yay!) which was really delicious actually, perfect blend of jasmine and black tea, perfect amount of sugar, and bubbles of course!

I was also in search of a place where we could get poutine.  My feet hurt so much from walking around that we made our way back to our hotel eventually and lo and behold! Smoke’s Poutinerie is literally across the street from our hotel.  Sometimes, it seems that fate just wants me to eat good food.  Of course we went straight in and ordered a traditional poutine.  They had at least a dozen different types of poutine: Mexican, hamburger poutine, an Oktoberfest poutine, etc..  I also got this soda pop that looked like real soda.  We got our order and dug in.  It was good, the fries were nice and crispy for like two seconds before getting soggy with gravy, the gravy was very flavorful and rich, and the cheese curds were curdy.  We both agreed that while the poutine was good, that we preferred our fries naked.  I also would like the cheese to be melty versus curdy.  But at least we got to try it.

The soda also was very good.  It was black cherry flavor and when I looked at the list of ingredients, there were only five or six ingredients and I could pronouce all of them. I also thought the bottle itself looked old school and charming.  All in all, a nice meal at Smoke’s.

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Restaurant Review: Kenzo Ramen

J and I spent the day and night in Toronto on Saturday without Future Foodie (!).  Yes, it was our first night away from our daughter in over 20 months.  We stopped in Syracuse, dropped her off, and drove off towards the border.  Of course, we had done lots of food research prior to trip (about 10 pages worth and yes we are weirdly obsessed with food).  We both really wanted some good Asian food as Toronto has a substantial Chinatown and a large Asian population.  Once we got to our hotel, a Hilton Garden Inn, which was really nice by the way, we made our way towards getting some Asian food in our bellies.  We were right downtown and Chinatown was only about 3/4 of a mile away.  On the way to where we thought we were going to eat, I spied a line at this tiny little Japanese ramen restaurant called Kenzo Ramen.  They had big pictures of all the ramen bowls they sold and I told J that this was going to be our final destination.  I always think it’s a good sign when a restaurant is crowded and if it’s an ethnic restaurant, crowded with people from that nationality.  We waited about ten minutes and sat and ordered as quickly as possible.  I ordered a chicken ramen noodle dish and a hot ramen noodle dish.  The noodle bowls came out fairly quickly.  The bowls were very large and steaming hot.  Both were delicious.  The noodles in both dishes were perfectly cooked, firm but not too firm.  The broth in the chicken ramen was delicious, nourishing and there was definitely miso in it.  It had egg, mushrooms, ground up chicken, and lots of bean sprouts in it.   I would have preferred more noodles to bean sprouts but overall it was very good.  The hot ramen dish was so, so good.  It had the same type of noodles and mix of vegetables but also had some ground beef in it.  The broth was so good, red and spicy. I just slurped it up.  My favorite was the spicy noodle dish and J loved the chicken ramen. Overall a great experience but the one not so great thing about Kenzo Ramen is the pretty bad service.  No one was unfriendly but I literally had to ask three times for a glass of water and they finally brought me some at the end of our meal.  I understood that they were busy but still.

We were talking about how sad it was that Albany didn’t have anything close to a ramen shop.  We think it would go over really well.  One can dream.

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