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.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Good Night Noodle 2.0

Good Night Noodle is officially open! What an exciting journey seeing Good Morning Cafe finally transformed to its Southeast Asian alter-ego. It's been many months since a sneak peak tasting in March and now everyone gets to experience Vietnamese food with a healthier twist. 

We've yet to make it up to Good Morning Cafe for breakfast but despite sharing the same space, its evening counterpart has a very intimate and inviting atmosphere, perfect for date night. The focus of Good Night Noodle is mainly on Vietnamese staples like pho noodle soup and summer rolls sprinkled with Thai favorites like pad thai and other Asian-inspired specials. While flavors are global, the ingredients echo Good Morning's mission to bring locally-sourced organic, fresh, and minimally processed ingredients to your plate. This includes farm-fresh veggies used in the summer rolls and grass-fed beef in the signature meatballs for your pho noodle soup. To boot, for each bowl of pho served, Good Night Noodle will give 25 cents toward the purchase of one pound of rice for the villagers of Poysomroung, their adopted community in Cambodia. Eat good, feel good, do good--it's that simple! 

Flavorwise, I've touched base on the pho before and Chef Linh has managed to improve on its flavor. We each got a bowl of the beef noodle pho. It's not the broth you're looking for at Kim's, Van's, or Saigon Spring but still has familiar flavor profiles. The aromatic soup has a natural beefy flavor with a clear, clean tasting broth that's elevated by the homemade meatballs.  The texture of the meatballs is unlike the ones you get elsewhere. I kind of missed the chewiness of the mass produced ones but the flavors made up for its Italian meatball-like texture. J missed the usual mix of sliced eye round and brisket but he most definitely approved this version. We both agreed that while not completely traditional, it's a welcomed version that's good and good for us. But if you need extra sodium kick like we did, ask for the premium Red Boat fish sauce. Pho is all about adding accoutrements to your liking including a dash of sriracha and Linh's homemade hoisin sauce,  which by the way tastes ten times better than the jarred stuff. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cantine le Relais 202 Poutine

Some dishes don't need all the bells and whistles; simple is best. Simple and found on the road side? Even better. You know how much we love poutine, especially Canadian poutine. So on a recent wedding trip to Plattsburgh we made a 20 minute detour to the Canadian countryside for a snack at a little cantine in Lacolle, just a few miles across the border. When asked by border patrol what we were doing in Canada, we got a little chuckle from the guard when we said it's because we craved good poutine. We weren't kidding!

We've had numerous American poutines--from The Montreal Poutine Truck out of Saratoga; Creo; City Beer Hall; Shirley's; Jonesville Cafe; to Capital City Gastropub--but none have truly lived up to its Canadian counterparts. We've even been to La Banquise in Montreal but there's just something about this particular roadside shack. For the longest time we didn't even know what it was called until I Google-mapped it. It's called Cantine le Relais 202. What a name right? But don't judge a book by its cover. La Cantine serves Canadian comfort food at its best and that translates to poutine with all the right elements.  These are fresh, crispy hand-cut fries fried to order and smothered with the perfect balance of salty, hot gravy to squeaky cheese curds that are barely melted. So what if the gravy tastes right from a powdered mix. To be able to share this classic dish from my childhood with my guy in the middle of nowhere was a special moment. The greasy goodness also helped with a slight hangover from a certain crazy, late-night bachelorette party the night before.

Our mini-trip was even sweeter when we stopped by the ice cream shop next door. They had a poutine ice cream sundaes! So the real thing is nothing like the ad but it's a pretty genius idea: vanilla soft-serve with rice crispy cubes, chocolate wafers, marshmallows, peanuts, and a caramel swirl. Needless to say, our double dose of Canadian poutine was the best wedding detour ever.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Friday Night Cookouts at The Cheese Traveler

There's no shame in admitting that we ate at The Cheese Traveler twice this week. Not only did we stop for grilled cheese sandwiches but the prospects of a Friday Night Cookout was too tempting to pass. Even during a torrential downpour on the kickoff night. Upon our arrival, despite being greeted by sunny skies and the smokey smell of a hot grill ready to go, grey clouds quickly turned into raindrops but that didn't stop the shop from grilling, even in the rain. 

With all the ingredients for delicious grilled cheeses at hand, The Cheese Traveler had no problem transforming them into the makings of a pretty unique summer cookout menu. That means quality products like fresh, never frozen Tilldale Farm ground beef burgers served on Bonfiglio & Bread rolls, with farm-fresh produce of your choice. But it wouldn't be The Cheese Traveler without optional toppings like Shelburn Cheddar or Colton-Basset Stilton and even kimchi from Mingle next door and French pate. But with lamb bacon as another option, how could we say no?! This lamb bacon changed my outlook on lamb. I was always turned off by its gaminess, but these fatty morsels are just life-changing especially in a grilled cheese or on a burger. The gaminess of the lamb bacon adds a unique layer of flavor to the burger. I chose to have my burger with just bacon and found it needed just a touch of salt. But J got the lamb bacon with havarti and the cheese really does make a difference in complementing the bacon and adding what was missing from my burger. Nonetheless, both of our burgers were plenty juicy and cooked to a perfect medium rare on a charcoal grill. We can't tell you how much we admire the charcoal grill; it just adds so much more flavor.