Tuesday, July 22, 2014

DeFazio's Pizza

We've seen the light at the end of the Italian food tunnel and it's called DeFazio's Pizza. J and I have never really been satisfied in our choices of pizza and pasta in the 518, even turning to a certain restaurant chain (NOT of the unlimited breadsticks kind) just to satisfy a quick hankering for carbs, cheese, and sauce. Lucky for me, I started a new job that introduced me to DeFazio's. I've long heard about this gem of place but never made the effort to go in person until I had a bite of the wood-fired stromboli and pizza from the Empire State Plaza Farmer's Market. The magic was in the crust, even from a mini portable oven. One crackly bite later, I knew J and I had to hit up the small Troy storefront. 


Upon sitting down at a cozy corner, a loyal customer couldn't help but brag about the hand-grated jars of parmesan, scratch-made pasta, and even hand-ground meats for the meatballs. I had tried the meatballs in the stromboli and had no doubt that the food was made with care and passion. I had a massive pasta craving and ordered the linguini with red clam sauce. This bowl of wonderfulness was more than satisfying. Fresh pasta made all the difference. The texture of the linguini was perfectly al dente. The clams were thankfully not overcooked and brought the dish a delightful briny seafood flavor while the light, bright tomato sauce just brought everything together. It was hard to share even one bite. I'm still drooling over the dish, particularly the pasta. Lucky for me I can find fresh DeFazio's pasta to take home from the farmer's market. I made the best chicken alfredo thanks to some fresh fettuccine and usually this Asian can't cook Italian well.

As intriguing as the General Tso's pizza was (Mozzarella Cheese, Italian Herb Chicken, Fresh Broccoli, Topped with General Tso Sauce and Spices), J went with a Brown's beer crust pizza topped with prosciutto. Good pizza needs a good foundation and DeFazio's delivered. The magic really was in the dough. The crust was delightfully crisp and charred from the wood-fired oven yet still chewy, tender and very flavorful.The ratio of sauce to cheese was just right and how could you go wrong with crispy prosciutto. It was a good balance of toppings to crust and just plain tasty overall. Now we know why DeFazio's Pizza was AOA's Tournament of Pizza champion. Can't believe it took us this long to stop by!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

currently snacking on...


... HoppyPop Local NYS Craft-Beer Infused Caramel Popcorn from Kernel Cravings.
Sweet, salty, and crunchy with a subtle hoppy, bitter flavor.
Found at the Empire State Plaza Farmer's Market and eating by the handful!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Samascott Orchards

I don't have a green thumb. My basil plant is barely surviving this summer. When it comes to gardening, I'd be happy to leave that to the professionals. When it comes to eating, we're pros but harvesting was a whole new adventure. We've gone apple picking before and that seemed easy enough; why not try berry picking? Samascott Orchards always has a beautiful farmer's market spread of fruits and veggies. When we heard they did pick your own, it was a chance to put on our foraging hats. Samascott Orchards is only a 30 minute drive to Kinderhook from Albany. Bring your own containers or bags for picking or it'll cost you a quarter for a couple of plastic bags or $0.75 for a cardboard container. Right now blueberries are flourishing and we were happily eating sampling for quality control along the way; they kind of discourage you from not eating before paying.

Sweet, plump, and still warm from the sun's kiss; it's so satisfying tasting what Mother Nature has to offer this summer. The best picking method? Cup your hands and pick with your thumbs and a bounty of blueberry jewels will fall into your palm. Sure you can easily stop by the Samascott Garden store on the way down but there's something to be said about working hard for your food. No sweat, no berries. 
There were still plenty of blueberry bushes awaiting ripening but strawberries and sweet cherries were at a premium and already picked over. We were able to find a handful of strawberries but it was more of a scavenger hunt. J grew up on sour cherries and while most people overlook these rubies, we appreciate its tart flavor and harvested a bucketful for a pie to be. But really all these beries are just as good, if not better, on their own.



Created with flickr slideshow.


A couple hours and a sunburn later, we walked away with $20 worth of blueberries, sour cherries, and strawberries. All the berries were priced at $2.00/pound, with the exception of black raspberries at $5.00/pound which we somehow missed. You can also pick for peas, squash, and cucumbers at $1.25/pound. 


At weigh-in, you'll find a variety of homemade jams and jellies, cold apple cider, frozen meats, and cider donuts at the farmstand. We decided to end our pick-your-own trip on a sweeter note with a scoop or two of homemade ice cream. We topped scoops of raspberry and peach ice creams with our freshly picked prizes. Delish! As an added bonus, we stopped by Ninepin Cider for a bit of libation. Ninepin uses apples from Samascott for their cider so it was only fitting that we completed the full circle with a tasting and growler to go. This summer is shaping up to be pretty sweet! 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

currently snacking on...


...this Boston Cream Crodo from The Crisp Cannoli:
delicious deep-fried, flaky croissant donut rolled in sugar, filled
with vanilla custard and topped with a giant swirl of chocolate frosting.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Black Cat Cafe

It's tough starting a new job without any vacations days, especially when you want a getaway in the summer. Cooperstown's just a lovely reminder that a break from city life is just a little over an hour away with some tasty options along the route. For us, a typical trip to the Coop means stops by the Beekman 1802 Mercantile, flight of beer at Council Rock Brewery, and dinner at Brooks BBQ. Lunch at the cafe at Ommegang and Council Rock are great options, but when the hunger grumps hit en route, just hit up the Black Cat Cafe in Sharon Springs. 

Blink and you might miss this small, quaint little village down Route 20. Turn right on Main Street and you'll be greeted by the historic American Hotel and the village's charming boutique shops including the Beekman 1802 Mercantile. Dining options are limited aside from the hotel, but the Black Cat Cafe offered just what we needed for lunch. If you're up early enough the cafe has an array of breakfast options including omelets and breakfast sandwiches. For us late risers, lunch is an equally perfect opportunity to sit back and relax on the patio.

This isn't our first stop at Black Cat. We knew ordering a side of Lebanese potato salad and Mac 'n Blaak was a must. The potato salad is simply dressed in lemon, olive oil, parsley, and salt and pepper but so good; these bright, light and fresh flavors were perfect for summer. I'd rather have this all the time than the mayo-laden version. We've pretty raved about everything Beekman related and the same goes for the mac 'n cheese made with The Fabulous Beekman's Blaak Cheese, a semi-hard cheese made with 60:40 mix of goat and cow milk, with Martha Stewart's seal of approval.  Although the mac 'n cheese could have used some salt and pepper, the mild goat cheese flavor came through fabulously and was still distinct enough without being overpowering as some goat cheeses can be. A spoonful was a warm, comforting cheesy bite. 

Of course there's no such thing as too much cheese. As if "as featured on CNN" wasn't intriguing enough, the flavor combos of  the Wild Julia grilled cheese was too good to pass up on: extra sharp cheddar, applewood-smoked bacon, tomato, pepita seeds, and Frank's red hot on white bread. It might look like a lot of ingredients but they all melded together beautifully. Cheese and bacon are inherently a match made in heaven but the added texture and crunch of the pumpkin seeds along with the fresh bite of tomato and zing of hot sauce was like no other. They're all simple ingredients but sandwiched between buttery, toasted slices of bread, and they're transformed to a whole other level. 

Add an orange carrot smoothie and you've got yourself the perfect patio lunch. Stop by The Beekman 1802 Mercantile afterwards for an added bonus. It's conveniently located a few doors down from the cafe. Be sure to stock up on jars of Beekman goat milk cajeta. We've been eating the caramel by the spoonful and can't wait to return to both the Mercantile and Black Cat. It's a winning combo en route to Cooperstown or just on its own. 




Monday, June 30, 2014

Parivar Spices & Food

Since our visit to La Mexicana Grocery, I'm convinced that the best eats come from the back of a grocery store. For the longest time we drove by Parivar Spices without a blink until Albany Jane's post inspired us to stop by for a snack, aka chaat as it's known in India. Our first go around was a bit intimidating between being greeted by quite an extensive menu and confusion navigating the counter service system. We came in expecting your standard Indian menu with your tikka masalas and tandooris but were surprised by the array of chaats, dosa crepes, and vegetarian only options.

Some items aren't as descriptive so you just have to dive in. The man behind the counter quickly sensed that this was our first time and happily explained that we order at the counter in exchange for a number and wait for our food; come back to the food counter after you're done eating, give back your ticket number, and take the receipt to the front cashier. He also happily talked us into a trio of samosas and pani puri was something I've been wanting to try for awhile after Sweet Sue's mentioned adding them as a brunch special.

Pani puri is like India's version of nachos. It took some time stalking my neighbors to learn

how to tackle this snack. This diy version comes with a handful of hollow, puffed crispy shells called puri that you crack the top off of and stuff with spoonfuls of a spiced chickpea and potato mixture, red onion, tomato chutney, and splash with chilled mint water and tamarind sauce. Stuff the whole thing in your mouth before it gets soggy and it's an explosion of flavors and textures all in one bite.

There are two kinds of samosas--a stuffed fried pastry version and the ones we got were wrapped in a thin, crispy wrapper, similar to my mom's homemade spring rolls. An order of five triangles come out piping hot and the shell shatters as you bite into one. It's stuffed with a deliciously spiced potato filling and a dip of tamarind sauce adds a sweet note while the cucumber yogurt raita cools it down. These were wonderful little bites too.

We're mostly carnivores and were impressed how filling and delicious vegetarian options could be. We came back for a dinner and were equally impressed. A full meal will get you two subzis aka your choice of veggie entrees, a lentil soup, rice, samosa, and paratha flat bread plus dessert. The dosa rice crepes is also an item you're going to want to savor. This giant crepe is crispy, light, and slightly sour and just as fun to eat as you rip and dip in a duo of spicy chili sauce and ginger coconut chutney. Wash it all down with a mango lassi drink or pista falooda (a pistachio flavored milk drink with nuts and sweet noodles) and you'll be happily stuffed to the gills til your next visit. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tango Restaurant Bar & Grill

More often than not, J and I are blessed with a multitude of bad and weird dining experiences. In fact, our relationship started with bad service at a restaurant and we've been cursed ever since. You can't blame us for being so skeptical when it comes to checking out a new joint. Lately we've had a streak of mediocre food and service but the most bizzare has got to be hands down at Tango Restaurant Bar & Grill

Most places you're welcomed by a smiling hostess or at least a "Please wait to be seated sign". At Tango, you have to navigate a large empty hallway, go down a dark grungy set of stairs, past a set of empty booths, and make your way to the bar lurking around like a creeper until the bartender sees you. This in itself would have made us turnaround except I had already purchased a Groupon thinking I could save a few bucks. Perhaps the food would make up for its quirky "charm". The fact that they served Uruguayan food piqued my interest enough to drag J along, and a certain newspaper review seemed hopeful. We're certainly learning that not all experiences are created equal.

Our server/bartender seemed to be the only person working amongst a small crowd that had gathered for a World Cup match along with two other couples at the dining booths, including us. We were awkwardly handed two ipad menus without any instructions on how to order and one of them wasn't even uploading properly. We navigated the super high tech menu ourselves, but couldn't help but chuckle at the use of stock photos and badly taken photos. Now granted I'm not the best food photographers out there but if you're going to invest in an ipad menu, at least invest in better quality photos instead of clipart.

Graphics aside, the food choices are 
a mix of Uruguyan specialties from grilled meats and offals to Italian pastas. Why was chicken milanesa and gnocchi on the menu? A little internet research clued us in on Uruguay's European roots and influence.  Well we're more adventurous than that and opted for the more exotic options: a beef tongue appetizer and grilled meat parrillada for two with sweetbread, short ribs, tripe, blood sausage, pork sausage, and pork. While we submitted our order to the kitchen on the ipad, but that feature doesn't even work and the waiter/bartender ended up taking our order anyway and took away the ipads with the other options to request service and check. What's the point of having technology if you can't even use it properly?!