Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Banh Mi at Saigon Pearl

No need to travel to Montreal when the craving hits. You can finally find a banh mi in Albany with the right kind of bread. Saigon Pearl on Madison Ave. delivers a light and crisp French baguette that shatters upon first bite. The bread has drastically changed since their opening day offering and finally highlights the most important element of a banh mi. You won't find the classic fillings of cha lua bologna or liver pate, but the bbq beef and meatball versions are equally as satisfying, bringing together savory, sweet, and fresh flavors. Plus at $5.00 a sandwich, it's a steal and a much tastier alternative to that generic five dollar foot long. Add a durian milkshake if you're brave enough and you've got yourself a pretty good Vietnamese meal. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gracie's Food Truck

As much as we love the Capital Region food truck scene, it was refreshing to discover what the Hudson Valley is up to. On a recent trip down to Hudson, we discovered the most adorable little outdoor food court on Warren Street in Hudson. The parking lot is dotted with a handful of food carts and trucks offering global flavors from Indian to Mexican and American classics.

I previously stopped by for doughnuts at Gracie's Food Truck and had to come back with J for the doughnut burger challenge. Yup, we went there...and more.

Gracie's prides itself in producing scratch-made American classics using locally sourced ingredients. That just translates to deliciousness in our bellies. The donuts are heavenly on their own; these pillowy-soft yeast donuts are going to make you weak in the knees. Sandwich a juicy farm fresh all-beef patty in between with a couple slices of crispy bacon and cheese for good measure and you've got the makings of a gut-busting experiment that's worth all the calories. The meat is quite flavorful for such a small bite and could easily be tasty as a normal burger but why not go the extra mile with added gluttony. The extreme contrasts between the sweet vanilla-specked glazed donut, salty bacon and greasy beef worked ridiculously well. But it was the homemade donut and quality meat that made all the difference.
What's a burger without fries? While the loaded fries with bacon and cheese were a tad over salted, the saving grace was the tangy truck special sauce. Plus the fry job was on point and I certainly love hand-cut fries with the skin on. 

To complete the donut trifecta we had to round things out with an orange creamsicle donut and since we stumbled upon Pride Day, we got a rainbow donut to add to the festivities. I wish I had room for at least a dozen more treats, include a donut ice cream sandwich that we just couldn't fit it. Gracie's donuts are easily my favorite yeast donuts to date with a constant rotation of seasonal and creative flavors that are right up my alley. We got the traditional ones this time but the hibiscus berry one from a couple months ago was phenomenal. Luckily they are only a day-trip away to sample more flavors. Can't wait to come back to Gracie's and check out the rest of the Hudson food truck scene!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Tale of Two Albany Ramen Bowls

The Capital Region is slowly catching on the ramen trend. There was the one-time Tavern Noodle pop-up, a couple of mediocre bowls from Mr Fuji Sushi and Samurai, and a soon-to-open ramen shop in the former Miss Albany/Scortino's space. In less than two days, we encountered two more ramen bowls on the local scene.

Brunch just got tastier thanks to the Breakfast Ramen Bowl at New World Bistro Bar. Savory soups just don't get enough attention as a breakfast item. To me, soups like pho and rice porridge are considered breakfast items so the idea of a ramen for breakfast wasn't too foreign. NWBB presents a veggie version with shiitake mushrooms, snap peas, carrots, bean sprouts and sweet peppers. I tend to hold back on veggie dishes, thinking they won't be as flavorful but I was wrong with this one. The broth was very well-developed and rich in flavor thanks to the shiitakes and added layer of umami from fermented black beans. A slight kick of heat kept your palate awake. The magic was in the perfectly cooked al dente noodles. The only tragedy was the lack of runny yolk in my poached eggs. I also found myself missing some meaty flavors but a side of peppered bacon did the trick. 

Sushi Tei has long been our #1 spot for sushi in the Capital Region. Along the way we've found gems like roasted yellowtail collar and udon noodle soup. Now we can add ramen to our list of favorites but so far it's only offered on Tuesdays.  Succulent slices of pork belly adorn a bowl of creamy golden meaty broth glistening with just the right amount of fat globules. A few shakes of chili oil, sesame seeds, and togarashi adds some zip. The dish was suppose to come with fermented menma bamboo shoots but the substitute of wood ear mushrooms worked just as well adding another dimension of texture. Interesting enough, the ramen noodles at Sushi Tei were thin and straight while the ones at NWBB were wavy. For some reason or another, I prefer the wavy kind and its chewiness. The egg here was also a misstep, hardboiled rather than poached. A slice of nori also would have been welcomed but the flavor of the broth more than made up for it. It'll be tough choosing between sushi and ramen, or just do yourself a favor and order both.

It's a tale of two different ramen bowls but it's nice to see Albany embracing a dish that deserves a spotlight. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

currently snacking on

...lavender honey frozen yogurt from Ayelada with swirls of local Acadia black locust honey from
Lloyd Spear Beekeeper and vanilla bean caramel sauce for good measure.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Miyake Fore St.

How could we leave Portland without enjoying some of the best sushi in town. Our experience at Miyake topped a slew of a list of delicious honeymoon eatsLast year we had a very satisfying bowl of ramen at its sister restaurant, Pai Men Miyake and couldn't wait to dive into this pick-your-own four-course dinner. 

Marinated Salmon: [Thinly sliced raw salmon with capers, mustard vinaigrette, and oba shiso leaves] This unique carpaccio-style sashimi was tangy and briny with beautiful velvety slices of salmon but the pickled plum was the crowning jewel.
Tuna 3 Ways: [sashimi, zuke, tartare] The least innovative dish of the night was this classic trio which lacked the punch and wow of others. Not that it was terrible, just not as exciting. Tai Kubuton: [Tai snapper head marinated and braised in sake, soy, dashi and ginger] Now that's a face only a mother could love. It was a bit of a Hannibal Lecter moment but it's one of the best cuts; the flesh is melt in your mouth tender. The simple fragrant sauce was just what this dish needed and nothing more. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Local Forage Dinner

After the whirlwind of our wedding, it was nice to enjoy a nice sit down dinner at Sweet Sue's in TroyThis past weekend, J and I were lucky enough to attend Chef Josh Coletto's special Local Foraged Dinner as Chef Susan Dunckel's guests. Sweet Sue and her team catered our dream wedding meal with four different flavored pig roasts! You may know Josh from Rock N Roll Brunch at The Low Beat . This dinner was a whole new out-of-the-box experience for us, considering our only encounter with wild greens have been with ramps and fiddleheads. 

The six-course tasting menu featured local foraged ingredients with wine pairings. Wilderness educator Cait Denny was on hand to answer the five million questions we had about all the greens.

We were greeted with a glass of prosecco sweetened with honeyed angelica syrup and started the meal with this beauty:
First Course: Soft Duck Egg [Cranberry Beans, Dame's Rocket, White Pine Vinegar, Yogurt Dressing] :: Wine Pairing [Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Risling Kabinett Halbtrocken, Mosel, Germany 2012]

That soft yolk...enough said. The creamy beans were delicious but I was more drawn to the sour and bitterness of the dame's rocket, which we learned was from the mustard family.
Second Course: Burdock Root Puree [Wild Thyme Aioli] :: Wine Pairing [Naked Flock Apple Cider, Hudson Valley, New York]

I have childhood nightmares of prickly burrs tangled in my hair as we played in the woods at recess but in edible root form, it lends a nice starchy texture to soup. 
Think potato leek soup but elevated. The aioli added a lovely tang. 
Third Course: Stinging Nettle and Ricotta Dumpling [Ostrich Fern Fiddlehead, Sauteed Wild Ramps with Slow-Roasted Ramp Bulb, Smoked Trout, Chive Blossom, White Wine Sauce] :: Wine Pairing [Clos Cibonne Tibouren Rose, Cotes du Provence, France, 2012]