Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ralph's Tavern Mozzarella Sticks

Between work, school, and wedding planning, we've been pretty stressed out lately. What better way to give in to a little comfort food and indulge with deep fried cheese sticks. After a whirlwind Tour de Tavern Pizza with no room for anything else, the thought of Ralph's Tavern mozzarella sticks lingered for weeks taunting us. We finally caved and went for it.

Our first encounter did not disappoint. They clearly did not come straight from the freezer. Although not as crunchy as your typical mozzarella sticks, these lightly hand-battered logs had just the right amount of breading to let the cheese shine. If you're looking for an oozy, gooey, melty mozzarella stick, this hits the spot. It's also not too greasy which made wolfing these down way too easy.

Now what's a mozzarella stick without some sauce? While you can go the traditional way and have yours with marinara, you can also go the Upstate NY route and get yourself some raspberry sauce. J was more of a traditionalist preferring a savory sauce, while I leaned toward the salty and sweet combo. Don't get me wrong, the homemade red sauce is a classic and was just as good. The marina had great flavor and balance of seasonings but there's something about the grease, salt, and sweetness that was so addictive. I know, it's just jam from a jar but somehow it works. Are you a Team Mozz & Melba or Team Mozz & Marinara kind of person?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Beer Belly

With a name like The Beer Belly, you wouldn't expect this type of joint to serve such addictive food but it does! J and I would probably come here on a daily basis if we still lived around the corner.
The atmosphere is a perfect mix for the both of us; not too pretentious or hipster yet comfortable and approachable. 

The Beer Belly has been curating an evolving list of excellent craft beers and a menu that is fun and thoughtfully prepared with simple and delicious ingredients. By now, you might as well call us regulars. We've tried nearly everything on the menu and while not all bites are perfect, there's been some memorable ones that are worth coming back for:

$1 Oysters: It's become a Sunday ritual for us pairing these freshly shucked beauties with a pick-your-own flight of delectable beers. You can also stop by on weekdays from 11am to 5pm for this daily deal.

Bresaola Bites: These artfully wrapped purses of thinly sliced cured meats are generously filled with a creamy chive goat cheese. It's a symphony of flavors between the tanginess of the cheese and salty bites of the air-dried beef. The basil pesto adds another dimension of flavor, bringing a fragrant accent that pairs wonderfully.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

currently snacking on...

...Hill Street Cafe cheddar gravy fries. Just as good as we remember from
Tour de Disco Friesin all its cheesy, fatty glory. Turkey gravy's a must.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Namu Korean BBQ

Is it spring yet? The intoxicating smells of charred bbq meat seems like a delicious distant memory. Wish we could say we were the die hard few that still grill in the winter but our little grill is buried deep in the massive pile of snow. So when the craving hits, what is one to do? 

Lucky for us there's Namu Korean BBQ in Colonie. We enjoyed our last experience at Seoul Korean and were happy to hear about the addition of more Korean in the area but with a diy twist. Each table is outfitted with built-in grills and the thought of grilling our own meat sounded pretty exciting. The bbq side of the menu is a mix of different cuts of pork, beef, and chicken. Priced from $19 to $29, it's a bit steep for the little amount of meat served. Nonetheless, the bulgogi beef that we ordered was tender and tasty enough. The aromas of grilled marinated rib eye and charred scallions was divine. We insisted on grilling our own meal but the servers are happy to do it for you too. Flavors could've used more balance as I tasted more sweet than savory but it all came together when wrapped up in lettuce with some rice and a schmear of gochuchang pepper paste, although that in itself could've been spicier.

The BBQ came with a generous number of banchan which were the highlight of our meal. These free refillable side dishes are great complements to the meal. J and I both couldn't stop eating the japchae noodles but it was the teeny tiny anchovies and dried shrimp that won me over. Don't be bothered by the tiny eyes staring at you; these briny, salty, and savory bits were delightful, enough to ask for seconds of. Other banchan included a pickled radish and assorted veggies, stir fried green beans, marinated cold tofu, cold spicy squid, and the ever present kimchi. I was slightly disappointed by the lack of heat and abrasive sourness of this quintessential Korean fermented cabbage staple. Not that I wanted blow my head off spicy, but at least a bit more kick.

We're suckers for Japanese grilled squid so the Korean version was right up our alley. A whole squid comes sizzling on a hot stone plate with a mix of scallions and bean sprouts with a side of sweet glaze. The waitstaff chops it up tableside for more manageable bites. J loved this dish. Squid was not too tough at all and the hot plate imparted a good smokey flavor. I could've sworn I tasted butter and it oddly worked. Veggies were a welcomed addition too. 

There was a steady Korean clientele for a Friday night and I'd be curious to hear their take on its authenticity. While flavors could use some adjustments here and there, overall our dining experience was pleasant and we would come back to try the stone bowls and stews. It's not K-Town level but for what it's worth, it's another dining experience for the Capital Region that wasn't there before. While we wait for spring, we'll take tableside grilling for now. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Swifty's Deep Fried Buffalo Burger

The craving for a meaty and greasy burger was intensified by this past week's so called Blizzard of 2015. Delmar isn't exactly a culinary mecca but the existence of a deep fried burger sounded especially comforting after the flurry of snowflakes. T
he buffalo burger at Swifty's Restaurant & Pub has long been on our #518eats bucket list. One Instagram from FUSSYlittleBLOG and convincing tweet from PirateJeni later, J and I were both headed toward what could be a poor life decision. 

There's no sharing in our household when both us are craving a burger. The buffalo burger sounded innocent enough until you read this on the menu: "Do not be intimidated by this one-of-a-kind burger! Hand breaded, deep fried crisp and golden, finished in buffalo sauce." Not one to shy away from a challenge, we both dove in with orders of our own, one rare and one medium rare, with medium hot sauce.

The result? An unbelievably gratifying indulgence. The moment you bite into the shatteringly crunchy batter is so satisfying as the juiciness of the fresh sirloin burger mixes in with the tangy hot sauce. Slather on a good helping of the creamy blue cheese sauce for an added moment of euphoria. You would think deep-fried anything would be heavy and greasy but the expertly executed fry job sealed in the rareness of the burger in such a magical way that it didn't weigh down the flavors of the beef or compromise the wellness of the meat. Both of our burgers had the desired amount of rareness. It's an odd concoction but it works so well. How can something so bad for your body taste so good? Oh yeah, it's deep fried and that crispy batter just sets it apart from all other burgers. Our only complaint was the buffalo sauce wasn't spicy enough; we probably would turn it up a notch next time. Now that we just got over an actual snowstorm, the craving for this burger hits again. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sadudee Thai Food

Don't judge a book by its cover. You've probably driven on 787 and seen the bright, colorful lights of Sadudee and pondered Thai food in Watervliet? It's an unlikely location for such bold flavors but curiosity drew us in for an overdue visit. Under The Copper Tree has long been a fan of Sadudee Thai Food and recommended the "pasta" dishes. Wait, what? There's Thai food in Watervliet and now we're telling you to get the pasta dishes? Don't knock it 'til you try it! 

Khao Soi: Deviating from my usual go to pad thai and drunken noodles, I opted for this coconut curry dish described as a popular Northern Thai noodle dish. Made with linguine pasta, the same Italian-American version from your supermarket, it's a headscratcher of an ingredient that surprisingly works very well. I'm assuming it's a substitute for the typical Asian egg noodles but here the al dente texture of the pasta holds up to the mildly spiced curry broth. A squeeze of lime brightens up the fragrant flavors, balancing the aromatics with the creaminess of the coconut. The added topping of crispy noodles not only added a wow factor to presentation but a satisfying element of textural contrast akin to extra wonton strips in your hot and sour soup.

Basil Noodles: Another stellar linguine dish was the basil noodles chockull of seafood and vegetables. The sauce here was slightly spicier than the khao soi but just as enjoyable. J's not as fond of Thai food as I am but this dish won him over. I personally love drunken noodle for its basil flavor but this might very well rival pad khee mao.

Duck Salad: The only disappointment was perhaps this salad. It had a lot of promise with enticing ingredients like crispy duck, tart apples, cashews (substituted with peanuts in this case), chili, and red onions. Unfortunately the tamarind vinaigrette was so pungent and salty that it overwhelmed the entire dish. A finer balance of lime juice and fish sauce and this appetizer would have been a hit. 

For what it's worth, Sadudee is not shy with bold and authentic flavors and it might very well give its Albany counterparts a run for its money. Next time you're in Watervliet, don't just come for Gus's mini hot dogs but stop by for a delicious taste of Thailand in one of the most unassuming locations.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

currently snacking on...

...Trader Joe's Sweet Sriracha bacon jerky.
An unhealthy decision with absolutely no regrets.
Salty, sweet, spicy, bacon-y. Enough said!