Let's preface this post with the fact that neither J nor I have had the chance to visit Louisiana nor New Orleans but what we can attest to is some tasty bites from Parish Public House. This Louisiana Eatery & Drinkery is off the beaten path from the busy Downtown Albany scene but worthwhile for a taste of the bayou. You'll find many Cajun specialities including an array of comforting classics like gumbo, alligator bites, and the beloved Louisiana staple--po boys fully loaded and chockfull of tasty fillings. Sadly my only other encounter with a po boy was a forgettable one many moons ago from The Bayou Cafe so I was excited to try it at Parish.
For a full Cajun experience, we chose a whole crawfish sandwich and fell in love at first bite. The nuggets of crawfish were artfully fried to a golden crispy perfection; not too greasy while retaining a great crunch throughout each bite. It was a fantastic contrast of flavors and textures as each bite delivered crispy crawfish sandwiched between a toasted, fluffy baguette lightly dressed with creamy mayo and fresh shreds of lettuce and slices of tomatoes. Last I heard, Bread and Honey were supplying Parish Public House with homemade po boy bread and if that's still the case (it is! confirmed via Twitter), it was the perfect vehicle for the quality ingredients being used. The bread had a light tender interior to it while toasting brought out a crackly crispy crust much like banh mi bread.
We started off with boudain balls and the fry job behind these bites were signs of good things to come, as evident from the po boys. These sausage and rice balls are fried with a cracker crust adding a different texture than the arancinis rice balls from our visit to Marisa's. I didn't expect the sausage to have the texture akin to for lack of better description, canned tuna, but as different as it was, the flavors were good. I suppose it could have used more rice too as it was a tad dry. A tangy Cajun whole grain mustard and a few dashes of Tabasco added just the right amount of zing.
For good measure we added the Catfish Acadiana dish to round out our Cajun experience. The same fry job was well executed with the catfish. Whoever is behind the fryer knows his or her way around it. Our only suggestions is a heavier hand with some salt.Here, the catfish was smothered with shrimp etouffee, a rich seafood stew/gravy. The etouffee was buttery and stick to your ribs thick from the roux. It could have used a bit more seasoning, but as with other dishes, some hot sauce did the trick. I could see this pairing better over rice but the star of this dish was the collard greens. Stewed with chunks of smoked ham hocks, this Southern staple was not only some much needed added veggies to our fried feast but overall a memorable bite. A meal of fried things wasn't exactly a healthy choice but it certainly was a very comforting one that pairs very well with a tall pint of beer. We left with full, happy bellies especially after a slice of Cheesecake Machismo. Hopefully we'll be seeing beignets on the dessert menu in the near future (hint, hint). One of these days we'll get to New Orleans but until then, we'll get our fill at Parish Public House.
We've been in a restaurant rut lately, mainly because we've had a string of disappointing meals. We try to be optimistic when it comes to new dining ventures but some meals just don't live up to their expectations. So what's been on our list of duds lately?
Shirley's Restaurant: The poutine saga continues. The curd flavor was there and so were the crispy hand-cut fries but the sloppy mess of a neon orange gloop of sodium-laden gravy just didn't cut it. We even tried ordering the cheese on the side to test its squeakiness but alas it was a melted mess which I suspect is from reheating a frozen batch of cheese. At least the Montreal smoked meat was spot on.
Burger 21: The first time wasn't half bad. The beef version was juicy and flavorful and ok for a fast food chain. I'd almost pick it over Five Guys. The second time I thought I'd be adventurous and try the Ahi Tuna burger which I immediately regretted at first bite. Sushi-grade? I don't think so. The poor fish was fried to oblivion, leaving nothing but a flavorless soggy greasy patty of panko slathered with a cloyingly sweet caramel soy sauce and stuck on a cold buttered bun. I'm sticking strictly to sashimi from now on.
Pho Yum: With a name like that I expect a pretty good bowl of pho. Alas, it was not yummy. The broth was ok although a tad too sweet for my taste but not all the elements melded together. The noodles were too soft and the meatballs had a super rubbery consistency. We finally even found tripe but it had a very sour, off-putting taste. Phail.
Smashburger: Why not try another burger chain. The Local burger--NY Cheddar, garlic grilled onions, spinach, tomato, and peppercorn garlic aioli--sounded promising but really there was nothing to rave about. Too many ingredients and a lackluster beef patty. We'll just stick to the generic greasy Five Guys.
City Bar Line and Grill: Don't promise me crispy, crackly pork belly and present me with this sad excuse of a fatty mess slathered with chef's tangy chipotle chili sauce. We didn't bother taking snapshots of our entrees because it was that bad. My pecan-crusted chicken sandwich was burnt and leathery and J's Bullet burger overcooked and flavorless. This was probably the most disappointing, expensive meal in awhile lacking execution and finesse on all levels.
Maybe after this streak, we'll come across some better bites.
The shop is located in an unassuming strip mall in Guilderland. We saw more take-out orders than diners but decided to stay at the few tabletops for a full pizza experience. The menu is a mix of standard favorites but also Italian classics that piqued our interest including greens and beans but we were particularly eyeing the arancinis. Deep fried cheesy balls? Yes please. These were indulgent crispy bites of creamy arborio rice with ground meat and melty mix of mozzarella and romano. A side of sweet and tangy marinara complemented the flavors and textures very well. It's definitely a new favorite comfort food. Arancinis also come in a seafood version with salmon, shrimp, and green peas which is next on the to eat list.
We came for the margherita pizza, also known as the Marisa, but our love of prosciutto gravitated us toward the Rusticana pie with asparagus, roasted red peppers, fresh garlic and basil, mozzarella, and normally portabello mushrooms but because J is anti-mushrooms, ours was fungus free. Both pizzas had an amazingly thin and crispy crust. Despite all the ingredients, the pies held together very well with a flavorful balanced pairing of ingredients. The sauce was right up my alley; bright and sweet and lightly applied. The classic fresh tomatoes (albeit off season and not as ripe), basil, and mozzarella on the Marisa was very reminiscent of Pasquale's, from what I could remember, and remains a top favorite pizza combo.
The difference between a hot and fresh and delivered pie is night and day. I can see how the mozzarella might not have traveled well to TOP and got a bit tough with cooling. Because when served fresh, a cheesy slice pulls away beautifully with that stringy and melty stretch that we all love. Our particular neighborhood here in Albany is a pizza dead zone so t's nice to know a great pizza shop isn't too far away. Thanks to AOA for introducing us to one of our new favorite pizzas.
C'mon. Give me some of your tots. These crispy, golden nuggets of deep fried potato bits can be found at Comfort Kitchenin Saratoga Springs. But these aren't just any ordinary tater tots; they're house-made and worth every delicious greasy bite. The interior is moist and fluffy while the outside has the perfect crunch. Talk about comfort eats. Ask for a side of "Awesome Sauce"--a creamy slightly spicy mystery dip--to complete the tater tot experience. Good luck sharing.
Comfort Kitchen prides itself in using local and seasonal produce, house made ingredients, and sources from local farms. This means quality meats like this slow-roasted pork with house-smoked ham and house-made pickles for a delectable Cuban sandwich. It wasn't exactly an authentic Cuban with Gruyere cheese, but it was a mighty tasty pork sandwich. The bread was pressed perfectly creating a crispy and compact vehicle for all the filling.
Avocados aren't local but how can you turn down fried avocado?! My favorite local food truck staple are transformed by Comfort Kitchen into these veggie tacos. It's chockfull of textures and flavors--the creaminess of sweet roasted butternut squash, black bean salsa, and of course avocados are mixed with the crunch of the fried breadcrumbs, crisp peppery radish, fresh lettuce, and corn tortillas (albeit a bit stale). A squeeze of lime and the zesty chipotle mayo added that extra zip of flavor. If fried things and pork products are your vices, rest assured, Comfort Kitchen can make your dreams come true. We're eyeing the pork belly tacos and pulled pork mac 'n cheese next.