Monday, January 25, 2016

Hattie's Fried Chicken & Waffles

Brunch is your free pass to scoring fried chicken for breakfast and it doesn't get any better than chicken and waffles at Hattie's Restaurant in Saratoga. As we sat surrounded by pictures of Hattie Gray, the namesake of the establishment, we just couldn't help but feel the love for this beloved Southern fried chicken. Each succulent bite proved how special her recipe is. No wonder it beat Bobby Flay in a Throwdown Battle. 

The moment you break through the crisp shell is a euphoric moment. The contrast of textures and flavors is on point with just the right balance of seasonings. The crunchy batter is speckled with a good dose of fiery pepper and much to my surprise, the meat was so juicy and flavorful thanks to a brine. The waffle takes a backseat to the star of the show but it wouldn't be brunch without it. A swirl of syrup and a dash of hot sauce and you've taken chicken and waffles to another level with bursts of sweet, savory, spicy, and salty notes. But let's face it, the fried chicken is where it's at and it's finger-licking good at Hattie's. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cafe Chat L'heureux




























Disclaimer: This post will be saturated with photos of adorable fluffy cats. On a recent visit home to Montreal, J and I stopped by Cafe Chat L'Heureux to sip tea with a bunch of furry friends. Modeled after popular hot spots in Korea and Japan, this one is the first of its kind in North America and a mecca for the crazy cat moms and cat dads out there. It's truly a unique experience. 
This particular cafe has nine resident cats, treated like kings and queens with plenty of comfy couches and places to climb and play. In true feline fashion, most like to nap but once in awhile you'll find one or two roaming the space.


Some like to show off impressive ticks. Pictured here, Milady shows off high fives for treats from the cafe owner.
Gustave is passed out hard on this sofa.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top Bites of 2015

The last days of the year brings back memories of yet another delicious round of great eats. We were a bit biased naming our wedding cake from TC Paris as our favorite local bite of the year on All Over Albany but 2015 introduced us to some other favorites that deserve honorable mention:


Uni with quail egg from Sushi Makio: Some bites are life-changing. Sushi Makio proved that fresh, quality sea urchin can be found in Upstate New York. The addition of a velvety quail egg yolk elevated this piece of sushi, bringing an ethereal element that complemented the brininess and creaminess of the uni so well. It was one of those moments where you just had to close your eyes for a moment of silence as you savor the explosion of flavor. 

Spicy ramen at Sushi Tei: The ramen craze is now just hitting Albany with the opening of Tanpopo Ramen and various appearances as specials throughout Capital Region establishments. But it's the Tuesday special at Sushi Tei that hits the spot every time. The tonkatsu ramen is a comforting mix of rich, creamy broth and fatty slices of pork belly . The off-menu addition of spicy pork gives the ramen not only an added kick of spice but flavor that's quickly becoming a favorite. With winter officially here, you can count on this special being on the menu twice a week now with the addition of Ramen Sundays to warm you up. 
Rice or egg noodle with seafood from Saigon Pearl: ICYMI Saigon Pearl now makes a pretty legit crackly banh mi sandwich but you'll also want to check out the rest of menu especially for this noodle dish. Under new ownership, you'll find a new menu with classic Vietnamese favorites like Bun Bo Hue Spicy Noodle Soup and Clay Pot Stewed Fish. One of my favorite dishes, aside from pho, is hu tieu kho thap cam which translates to assorted mixed dry noodles. It's a dish with many variations: dry with pork broth on the side; wet as a soup bowl with the noodles and broth mixed together; with egg noodles or with rice noodles. My preference is dry with rice noodles. The best part of the dry version is that a salty soy-based sauce coats the noodles, and when mixed with a bite of a little of everything, it's delightful. Plus when you get it dry, you still get a side of broth to either mix in with the noodles or slurp alongside. With an assortment of meats and seafood ranging from cha siu pork, fried chicken, fishcake, quail egg, and prawns, it's a dish that'll satisfying every craving. Plus the bits of pork cracklings are the crowning jewels. 


Squid-Ink seared scallop from Peck's Arcade: The creativity at Peck's knows no bounds. Our recent obsession with squid ink led us to a special featuring a perfectly seared scallop. Marinated in a dark briny coat of ink, the stark contrast of colors was just as appetizing as the mix of flavors between the pungent red miso sauce and tangy and creamy avocado mousse. It was a divine morsel and sharing one piece of scallop was a true test of our marriage. 







Garbage plates from Mac's Philly Steaks: A random detour to Canandaigua en route to Buffalo introduced us to one helluva Western delicacy. Garbage plates are a total guilty pleasure between the mountain of fries, hot dogs, meat sauce and mac salad but the mish mosh totally works! This particular one at Mac's featured a plump and juicy Rochester-based white hot dog from Zweigle's, most definitely the highlight of this Mac's Place Special. The Philly Plate on the other hand featured philly steak, onion rings, and hot sauce giving this combo the perfect zip! The added bonus was more carb on carb action courtesy of an Amoroso roll, a legit roll directly from Philadelphia. We can only imagine how amazing the Philly Cheesesteaks must be here but the garbage plate has a special place in our bellies.

More Top Bites: 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tour de Honeymoon Lobster

We spent the majority of our honeymoon eating our way through Maine. There were brilliant bites in Portland, especially at Miyake Fore Street, but Kennebunkport also held a special place in our stomachs:

Before we headed to Kennebunkport, we had to stop by Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland for another bite of the highly-praised and addictive brown butter lobster roll. The Chinese-style steamed bun soaks up juicy, sweet chunks of lobster bathed in a warm, nutty caramelized sauce. It just takes one bite to be hooked on this lobster roll. 

We started our first official night in Kennebunkport feasting on a 3-course lobster meal at Stripers Waterside, our hotel's adjoining restaurant. The only standout of the night was a lobster taco but the highlight of our meal was sharing our dinner with President H.W. Bush, Babs, and his secret service team. They sat behind our table, unbeknownst to us, and we didn't realize the family was there until it was time for him to leave and he gave us a very presidential goodbye wave. 

The Clam Shack is more than just clams. Of course the fried clam bellies were spectacular but the lobster roll here deserves just as much praise. Our favorite classic roll of the trip featured a whole lobster tail in all its glory. The secret is to ask for the lobster with a half butter, half mayo concoction. 


Mabel's Lobster Claw was conveniently located across from our hotel, lending itself as the for the perfect location for an afternoon snack. As a change of pace, we ordered a half lobster, half crab roll option. To my surprise, I enjoyed the the crab half more. Perhaps it's because we were at least six consecutive lobster dishes deep into our honeymoon and were craving something other than lobster. This was the night we took a break and had steak for dinner. 
Despite high cholesterol levels, we just couldn't leave Kennebunkport without one final morsel of lobster. We indulged in a tempura lobster tail at Wicked Tails because anything on a stick and fried is awesome. Then we saw lobster poutine on the menu and squealed with glee. It was fate! Our last forkfuls of lobster was bathed in a rich lobster stew, SQUEAKY cheese curds, and hand-cut fries. We ended our honeymoon on a great bite! 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sushi Makio

Kingston, New York isn't exactly a culinary mecca nor is a restaurant sandwiched in between a TCBY yogurt shop and consignment shop. But within a short drive from the Capital Region, you'll find Sushi Makioone of the best sushi places located none other than at a strip mall. Recalling Steve Barne's trip and entrusting our faith in him and Chef Ric Orlando, we treated ourselves to an unforgettable omakase meal prepared by Makio Idesako.
The seasoned sushi chef prepared a surprise medley of six tantalizing plates:


1st Course: monkfish liver pate and marinated herring with roe
2nd Course: Sunomo (red clam, scallop, shrimp, crab, and octopus marinated in tangy vinegar)
3rd Course: Sashimi of salmon, yellowtail, bonito, tuna, and amberjack. 


4th Course: aged-miso marinated black cod with pickled young ginger
5th Course: Various sushi of horse mackerel, eel, fluke, salmon, toro, and uni. 
OMG the toro was a heavenly, buttery, melt-in-your mouth bite and the uni was so fresh, creamy and briny.
6th Course: tempura sofshell crab roll
Dessert: Trio of green tea, red bean, and mango mochi ice cream bites. 
Chef Makio selects the freshest fish and expertly executives each piece with such care. Watching him work from the behind the bar was mesmerizing. On a return trip we had to up the anty with uni and quail egg yolk and let me tell you it was a life-changing bite. We've been craving this quality of sushi every since and would be happy to make the 50 minute trip to Kingston again and again. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fall Bites 2015

Colder temperatures definitely call for comfort food, as if that wasn't enough of an excuse to indulge in a few extra calories. Here's a look back at some of our favorite fall bites:
Cider Sunday: Ninepin Ciderworks organized a PYO apple and cider festival at Samascott Orchards. It featured a delicious pig roast by Lovers Leap Farm complete with sweet potatoes and and corn right from the farm and an icy glass of fresh pressed cider and apple cider doughnut for dessert.
Things got pretty meta when we started drinking in the orchard. Nine Pin sources a majority of their apples from Samascott and it was pretty awesome drinking in the very place where the fruit comes from. 

Twin Peaks Coffee & Donuts: We found ourselves at a doughnut shop while exploring the Catskills and its beautiful foliage. On a whim we stopped by this charming place in Tannersville for hot old-fashioned cake donuts. Each batch is fried to order by a donut robot and freshly glazed as it comes off the conveyor belt . Couldn't go wrong with the maple bacon but it was the Boston creme and samoa doughnuts that had us devouring half the order. 
TC Paris Bakery: Our favorite French bakery is back after a brief hiatus. You can now find them inside the Pavilion Grand Hotel serving breakfast and lunch daily alongside their decadent confectionaries. For the ultimate comfort food duo, go for the buttery mac 'n cheese made with imported gruyere and aged cheddar and a to-die-for ham and cheese croque monsieur made with a rich and creamy bechamel. Oooey gooey cheese hits the spot. Be sure to leave room for a macaron or two. 
Bees Knees Cafe: After Supper Club, I knew I wanted to return to Heather Ridge Farm during the daylight to not only enjoy the fall foliage but the weekend brunch. The menu changes every weekend and on this particular day we enjoyed a farm-fresh egg breakfast plate with and house-made corned beef hash and Irish bangers braised in cider with local potatoes and side of brown bread to mop it all up. Flavors were so fresh and knowing the meats were made from pasture-raised and grass-fed animals right from the farm made the experience even more special. 
Cafe Capriccio: I can't believe it took me 8 years to finally make it here. This Capital Region institution has been serving regional Italian cuisine for more than a quarter century and and we only recently made it here for THE BEST plate of pasta. Handmade tagliatelle is tossed in a robust ragu made with tender, melt-in-your mouth wild Icelandic lamb, root vegetables, garlic, cabernet, and tomatoes. The fresh pasta was a wonderful canvas for the sauce. Each bite unfolded layer upon layer of flavor. You'll be seeing us carb loading into the winter months at Cafe Capriccio. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Peck's Arcade

The days of summer are long gone but the memory of a delectable meal from Peck's Arcade lingers:
Sipping a sloe gin fizz on a perfect sunny day. So smooth as it went down the hatch.

Devouring creamy bites of this 23-Layer Potato [gruyere frico, salsa verde, merlot jam]. Thinly sliced potatoes are intricately layered and seared until a golden crust forms. The crispy wafer of nutty, salty cheese was the cherry on top.


Marveling at the rainbow of colors and flavors of this duck with chow chow, frise, and hazelnuts. It was an unexpected blend of familiar Asian notes with a Southern slaw, but its complexity was a welcomed flavor profile. 
Carb-loading on homemade tagtiatelle with lamb bolognese, peas, and ricotta. There's nothing better than fresh pasta with a rich, comforting meat sauce. The only drawback was that the pasta could've used a bit more cooking time.
Indulging in not one but two desserts: a decadent chocolate brownie with homemade vanilla ice cream and a creamy and tangy chevre goat cheesecake that was not only a piece of art but as good as it looked. From the friendly service to plating of the dishes, Peck's Arcade attention to detail was impeccable. As much as we miss summer, we're looking forward to what the team will bring in the coming winter months. Their creativity is endless.

Ok...don't judge us too hard but we also indulged in a third dessert next door at The Grocery. The maple soft-serve topped with feuilletine flakes was irresistible. Hopefully its reincarnation as Little Pecks will bring back the ice cream machine.