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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!

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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I have been on vacation and as a result have been neglecting my foodie reporting duties…I have lots to say about Maine and will do so when we get home and settled in this week…

Goodbye Sacramento!

Sacramento pleasantly surprised me. It is a really nice city – or at least the downtown/midtown areas are.  I was able to explore the city a little bit more yesterday, and the weather is so perfect out here…not too hot, not too cold.  I’m on my way back home today, yay! I can’t wait to smother my husband and daughter in hugs and kisses.

On to food (as always).

On Wednesday, I had a delicious, perfectly made “chicken caesar lavash wrap”.  The Lavash bread was crispy and light.  The chicken was flavorful (garlic and spices), the tomatoes and lettuce were nice and crisp, and I wanted to bathe in the garlic yogurt sauce.  I had this deliciousness at the Crest Cafe, a VERY unassuming looking little restaurant.  But I’m glad I gave it a chance because I wolfed that entire sandwich down.

For dinner that night, a couple of friends and I went to Aioli Bodega Espanola.  Can I say wow?  We sat in the gorgeous courtyard, and it was a beautiful night.  We started with a pitcher of the Sangria.  I thought the Sangria I had at Lucca the night before was good, it did not even come close to the Sangria at Aioli  The Sangria at Aioli was so different from any Sangria I’ve had. It was barely sweet, with nutmeg, cinamoon, and other spices in it.  It was dry.  We asked the waiter how they make it, and they put port and triple sec in it.  I will need to see if I can recreate it because I probably could have drank the whole pitcher by myself.

Since Aioli serves Tapas, we ordered one to share at the table, a dish with mini chorizo sausages and garbanzo beans in a red sauce.  It was great! It was like a high-end frank and beans dish.  The sausage was nice and smoky and the tomato based sauce was so good, we were dipping our bread in it.

I ordered the Pollo Aragon (chicken in a wild mushroom sherry sauce). My friends ordered a Salmon dish and a grilled marinated Chicken with arugula and fennel salad dish.  My chicken was very flavorful.  The sauce was nice and rich but not overpoweringly so.  The chicken itself was a tad overcooked, and had red chili flakes on it which added a nice hit of heat to the dish.  The sides were mashed potato and sauteed spinach.  The spinach was cooked perfectly and was pleasantly garlicky.  The mashed potatoes were very good in the sauce.  My friends were very satisfied with their dishes as well although both the chicken and salmon were again. slightly overcooked.

I was very happy that night walking home, after enjoying such a wonderful meal on a beautiful night.

I have to mention I was extremely jet lagged this entire week. I kept waking up at 4:30 AM on the dot.  It was really fun, NOT!

Yesterday, I was beat but I forced myself to search out some more good food. I’m such a slave to food.

I really wanted some good Vietnamese Pho (beef needle soup).  I found a place right around the corner from my hotel, Kim’s Vietnamese. It’s like a tiny cafeteria, you put your order in and they bring your order to you. I was happy to see a BIG bottle of Sriracha on the table.  I knew I was in the right place.

They brought out my chicken egg roll out first.  It was cold.  Not an appetizing thing for an egg roll to be.  I sent it back and asked for a hot one, and they obliged.  They brought back a nice, crisp eggroll back.  It was so good. The outside was nice and crispy and the chicken/cabbage filling was yummy.

Then the Pho came out (I ordered it with the well done flank steak).  The bowl was bigger than my head, literally.  I squeezed some lime in it, threw in some bean sprouts, and Thai basil and started the business of eating.  I love piling the noodles on the big soup spoon (why aren’t these spoons used everywhere? They are so efficient!), I then drop some Sriracha and a slice of fresh jalapeno on the spoon.  I then place the whole wonderful concoction in my mouth.  Perfection.  The broth itself was good but a little too sweet.  But really, the entire dish was so enjoyable.  I didn’t even make a dent in it after working on it for 15 minutes straight.  I tried my best! But I just could not fit anymore food into my body.

I then took a nice long walk around the city, it was really pleasant with cute little shops here and there.  As a light dessert, I enjoyed some frozen yogurt (raspberry and vanilla) with lots of fresh berries, shaved coconut, peanuts, and a tiny amount of chocolate chips.  The shop, Yogurtagogo, was one of those new yogurt shops that weighs the final cup of yogurt and the yogurt has live cultures in it.  So good!

I then broke a travel rule of mine and instead of trying a new different restaurant, I went back to Aioli Bodega Espanola.  I just really wanted another glass of that Sangria!  So I went by myself this time, and again sat outside.  Unfortunately, my second time at Aioli didn’t inspire the same raptures of delight from the night before.  The Sangria tasted slightly watered down, the flavors weren’t as powerful as the night before.  I ordered their version of the Tortilla Espanola and I ordered the mini chorizos again. The tortilla espanola (potato and egg pie, this one had red peppers in it), was kind of gross. I mean I ate the whole thing because I was hungry but it was cut up into 4 slices, and each slice was DRENCHED in garlic aioli.  Then they had this dropping of tomato sauce in the middle.  Tortilla Espanola is delicious by itself without all of the unnecessary accoutrements.  However, this pie was tasteless, and the texture was slightly off.  The tomato sauce didn’t add anything to the dish, and I just sopped up the aioli with the bread.  I am happy to report that the chorizo was as enjoyable as it was the night before.

Leaving the restaurant, I definitely regretted going back as I didn’t enjoy my meal half as much as I did the night before.  So I will need to reinstate my travel rule to keep trying new things when I have the opportunity to do so.

I got home safely and on time!  I rushed home and felt so happy to be with my family again.

This weekend, we will be going to Blue Spice in Colonie, stay tuned for our review!

Master Chef? More like master sucks…

J and I caught the premiere of Master Chef last night.  You know, I was excited to watch something approximating Top Chef that wasn’t on cable.  We don’t have cable because we are cheap asses.  But we actually don’t miss it all that much because we do a lot of television viewing via our computer which we hook up to our television.  It’s really the best of both worlds.

Back to Master Chef and how much it sucked.  I like cooking shows, whether it’s Top Chef or something on the Food Network (Sandra Lee and Paula Deen being the exceptions) because I like watching people actually cook.  The food makes me hungry and I salivate in front of the television.  However, Master Chef was really short on any actual cooking. Instead, I had to watch a grown man cry because he wanted to cook so badly (huh?).  One of the judges, the one who I think is the Tom Colicchio wannabe, looked like he was about to burst out laughing a bunch of times.  The production looked kind of cheap and it also looked like they were using the set of Chopped.  I don’t really find it interesting to watch judges eat.  And really, Gordon Ramsey is such a DRAMA QUEEN.  Was the food THAT bad that he needed to physically eject from his mouth?

We were disappointed but I’d love to hear what anyone else thought of it…