Thursday, December 25, 2014

currently snacking on...

... Chinese Turkey on Christmas Day. We had a little Christmas Story moment at
Ala Shanghai with some delicious Peking duck, cut to order. It wasn't smiling at us though.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

2014 was another tasty year. Sadly, a handful of our favorite eateries won't be making it past the New Year, some have already shuttered their doors and others closing its storefront soon.

Here's a recap of some 2014 bites that we'll miss dearly:

Good Night Noodle: This short-lived alter ego of Good Morning Cafe offered the Capital Region a unique take on Vietnamese food. For the first time in my life, pho went organic, healthy, and locally sourced. It was a welcomed alternative to our rotation and we'll miss its concept. (Closed November 2014; Good Morning Cafe still open for delicious breakfast!)
Shwe Mandalay:  Even more short-lived was this quaint Burmese joint. Global flavors like this type of cuisine is what I crave. It wasn't mainstream but packed so much flavor. This particular soup, moh hnn kahr, was pungeant and aromatic and just so different. What I'll miss the most is the fried, salted fish. (Closed October 2014)

Crisan: I'm kicking myself for not stopping here more often. Desserts were pieces of edible art with the kind of unique flavor combinations right up my alley. Summers won't be the same without the $2 scoop of gelato in flavors like honey bergamot and lavender. (Storefront closing Jan. 1; open for custom orders.)
The Crisp Cannoli: We said ciao to the only place that made cronuts aka crodos. The Dunkin Donuts monstrosity doesn't count. Sadly they were all sold out of the croissant doughnut hybrid but we indulged in one last sweet bite of hot, fresh-out-of-the-fryer crodoli--a cannoli croissant concoction filled with cannoli cream. (Storefront closing December 24; wholesale and mobile catering to continue.)
Tavern Noodle: Honorable mention goes to this pop-up ramen shop. The flavors didn't quite live up to our expectations (we've been spoiled by Pai Men Miyake) but kudos to Lucas Confectionary for bringing a taste of ramen to the area, even for a couple of nights.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Parish Public House

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.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A String of Disappointments

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.