Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Short and Sweet: Chocolate Chunk Cookies at Sweet Sue's

I have an insatiable sweet tooth so I want to write about, if not the best, then certainly the most awesome cookie I've ever eaten. 

It came from Sweet Sue's, a small and beautiful little cafe in downtown Troy.  I believe R has filled everyone in on the great food there, so I'm going to devote a paragraph to describing this fantastic little cookie.

These little guys are just fun to look at and imagine in your mouth.  They're a lovely golden brown and stacked with massive chunks of all different sorts of chocolate just piled up in the center.  Looking at it, you are struck by how many lovely shades of brown there can be in one bite.  That first bite doesn't disappoint; the cookie is soft,  buttery, chewy, and the pile of chocolate turns to to a delicious gob of slush in your mouth.  It is so beyond normal cookies, I would love to know what kind of chocolates she uses, but I'm afraid it would spoil the magic.

Anyway, thanks for the amazing cookie Sue. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

fin your fishmonger

Happy Blogiversary! It's hard to believe that Chopsticks Optional is one year old. We've come a long way since our very first post about our favorite Capital Region sushi spots. How fitting that we would write about seafood again exactly one year to the date. Since J has developed quite the skill for shucking oysters, fin-your fishmonger has been our purveyors for the best fresh and sustainable seafood needs. 

We were hooked at first bite at the lobster roll taste off last summer. We've also had much success with take-home meals (they prep, you cook!), particularly a halibut with citrusy tomatoes and capers. Since Chef Katie does a great job of complementing flavors, we thought we'd give lunch a go at the Guilderland shop. The menu is available for takeout or eat-in with regular items like salmon burgers and crabcakes with rotating soups and weekend specials. The fridge and cases are usually stocked with various sides, seafood salads, and house-smoked fish too. But we've had our eye on the fish tacos for quite awhile now and couldn't pass up on that plus the day's fish fry special. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Council Rock Brewery

Everyone has a weakness.  A certain place that, no matter what, they can't think a bad thing about.  I'm afraid the Council Rock Brewery in Cooperstown is falling fast into that status to me.  No matter how long it's been, no matter what mood I'm in or even my opinions about how the food and beer could be improved, I have never left there unhappy.  I think it says something that we have made the 1.5 hour trip multiple times primarily to stop there.

There's a refreshing honesty to the food and beer there.  In an age where the push is to culinary innovation and gastrology, it seems like simple done well doesn't get the attention it deserves.  Though the menu is pretty simple it is also executed very well with large portion sizes and surprisingly flavorful sides. You'll find standards like BBQ Pulled Pork simmered in their Brown Ale and Pastrami on marbled rye. But you'll also find some unique twists like Grilled Spicy Andouille Sausage with Gorgonzola Ranch Coleslaw. 

Our favorite are the garlic pesto fries.  Small shoestring fries cooked crispy but not overdone, tossed in an amazing pesto and sprinkled liberally with slices of garlic and served with chipotle aioli.  As much as we enjoy the rest, these fries are the reason we can't take a daytrip to Cooperstown without stopping at Council Rock.


So much for the food, but the reason you go to a brewery is for the beer, right?  Once more Council Rock's product stands proudly alongside any in the area.  I've found that a lot of larger microbreweries seem to stick to an identity to the exclusion of producing a great drink:  Shipyard uses a lot of English hops, Ommegang aggressively spices their drinks, etc.  Council Rock's identity, if it has one, tastes like balance.  The malt and hops are strong enough to be distinctive without drowning each other out, resulting in a surprising complexity for such relatively simple, honest brews.  The Friends and Neighbors Pale Ale is my favorite of the bunch, but even the ones I don't like are all an interesting take on their style.

In spite of its small size and unassuming look, Council Rock is one of my favorite upstate spots for food and beer.  With old-timers' day and the induction ceremony coming up, if you're on your way down to Cooperstown I would absolutely recommend a stop.  After all, baseball is much better with good food and beer.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sweet Sue's

The brunch fairies have smiled down upon us again. A trip to Sweet Sue's was a bit of a redemption trip for J and I. We once stopped by for a cupcake and macarons but the texture of the treats were a bit off. Every place has an off day, we get it. But the more I looked on Facebook, the more I was tempted by the playful menu and brunch combos. I convinced J to check out brunch at Sweet Sue's in Troy and we couldn't have been more blown away. 

Sweet Sue's plays around with lots of global flavors, even Vietnamese pho and banh xeo from what I've seen. The day's soup of the day was a Thai Tom Kha and we had to start our meals with a taste. It was a light red curry broth that wasn't the usual blow your head off spicy . For once I didn't miss the heat and enjoyed the balance of sweet and sour flavors. It wasn't too heavy on the coconut milk either and fragrant aromas of lemongrass balanced the sweetness well. It was the perfect soup to start off a beautiful spring day meal.

Get there early because brunch specials run out fast. I had my eye on the arepas from an earlier Facebook post but since they ran out, I opted for a breakfast sandwich with homefries. It wasn't just an ordinary breakfast sandwich. This one was made with Heritage Farms hickory smoked bacon, scrambled eggs, brie, and a schmear of fig jam on an Our Daily Bread croissant.

I loved the salty and sweet combo; the fig jam paired very well with the creaminess of brie and of course everything is better with bacon, especially thick-cut quality bacon. I also love when places opt for the peppery bite of arugula instead of lettuce on their sandwiches. The side of homefries were perfectly crispy but needed a bit more seasoning; just ask for ketchup and sriracha and you'll be all set. Sandwich aside, I was actually just as impressed with the side salad of arugula and house-grown organic sprouts. The greens were brightly dressed with a light vinaigrette and something so simple tasted so fresh and delicious. Locally-sourced and quality, fresh ingredients really do make a difference.
J was just as impressed with his Sooie Sandwich: Heritage Farm pork confit with slaw, pickled onions, and horseradish cream on ciabatta. The pork confit was packed with flavor but not greasy at all. The meat was heavy on cumin which was unexpected but in a good way. The slaw added a good, fresh crunch and horseradish added a good kick. J wolfed down this sandwich in no time. 


Of course a trip to Sweet Sue's wouldn't be complete without a cupcake or two, plus one more for the road. We chose a duo of Lemon Chai and Triple Chocolate cupcakes. This tasted much better than our first time around. Although the frosting was still hard from the fridge case, we didn't mind it all since it was so flavorful. It's a very buttery frosting, richer than your typical cupcake. It's butter alright. The cake part was fluffy and J couldn't get enough of the pudding filling in the chai cupcake. Plus it was so refreshing to see and taste real lemon zest in the cake. As for the chocolate cupcake, definitely plenty of chocolate flavor. What a sweet ending to an awesome brunch. It pays to have a leap of faith and give a place another go. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Short and Stout Tea Company

We've always been major coffee drinkers but per doctor's orders, J's been directed to cut back on the caffeine. His drink of choice lately has been tea and while we know some teas have less caffeine than others, we just don't know enough about it. Enter Short and Stout Tea Company. This new, quaint and bright shop is located right behind Cafe Calabria and has walls of blended teas to choose from. Overwhelmed? No problem, the owners are happy to help and offer suggestions. 

Being the supportive fiance that I am, I jumped on the low to no caffeine bandwagon with J. Come to find out, white teas have the least amount of caffeine while rooibos and fruit tisanes have no caffeine at all. We were in a fruity mood and were sold at first sniff of Black and Blue--a blend of berries (blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, elderberry), candied papaya, and hibiscus. Sweet smells of berries reminded us of the upcoming warmer weather and we couldn't say no to an iced version to kick start the spring season. It's refreshingly tart; no sweetener needed! Short and Stout takes brewing time very seriously. While you're waiting for your tea to brew, feel free to relax by the couches or browse the walls of samples. There are various blends to explore and smelling the delectable mixes is half the fun of exploring this space.

In addition to various blends of teas and preparations including bubble tea, the real treats reside in the display case. We also happen to have a massive sweet tooth and couldn't say no to homemade tea-infused confections, including the wonders of the brookie--an oolong-infused half cookie, half brownie hybrid. If you choose to stay in the shop, they'll warm it up for you and you'll fall in love with the combo of melted chocolate chips and chewy brownie. We couldn't really pick up on any oolong tea flavor but the chocolate flavor is where it's at. J was already asking for another brookie to go as we battled for the last bite. You won't be disappointed by the tea-infused cookies either. We got a matcha green tea cookie and normally I don't like shortbread cookies, but this one was buttery and the crumble didn't fall apart at first bite. It was also packed with matcha flavor and the frosting was the icing on the cake cookie. You'll find other flavors like earl grey and masala chai-infused scones and cookies. I'm particularly looking forward to returning for the earl grey cookie. 


What's unique about Short and Stout are the Thai-inspired savory pastries. You'll find baked versions of curry puffs and vegetarian spring rolls. The puff pastries are baked to golden perfection. Flaky and buttery, they are filled with unique flavors like yellow chicken curry and chicken curry with peanut sauce. The spices are prominent but the heat is mild and there's a touch of sweetness too. Additions of vegetables round out the filling. It's your favorite Thai curry in one little bite. 

You'll also find other Asian-inspired bites like crab rangoon. Short and Stout's version is not your typical deep-fried, greasy cream cheese takeout. These too are baked and lightly filled with surimi crab. I couldn't detect any cream cheese. If there was any, it was very light and a different take on this Chinese appetizer. Our favorite part was the sweet chili dipping sauce. It's not just Asian flavors, you'll also find Greek-inspired flavors of spinach and feta in phyllo among others. It's an international case of sweet and savory flavors. Short and Stout is more than a place for a spot of tea. Come by an get a little bit of everything, that's what we did!