Showing posts with label beef. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beef. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Beer Belly

With a name like The Beer Belly, you wouldn't expect this type of joint to serve such addictive food but it does! J and I would probably come here on a daily basis if we still lived around the corner.
The atmosphere is a perfect mix for the both of us; not too pretentious or hipster yet comfortable and approachable. 

The Beer Belly has been curating an evolving list of excellent craft beers and a menu that is fun and thoughtfully prepared with simple and delicious ingredients. By now, you might as well call us regulars. We've tried nearly everything on the menu and while not all bites are perfect, there's been some memorable ones that are worth coming back for:

$1 Oysters: It's become a Sunday ritual for us pairing these freshly shucked beauties with a pick-your-own flight of delectable beers. You can also stop by on weekdays from 11am to 5pm for this daily deal.

Bresaola Bites: These artfully wrapped purses of thinly sliced cured meats are generously filled with a creamy chive goat cheese. It's a symphony of flavors between the tanginess of the cheese and salty bites of the air-dried beef. The basil pesto adds another dimension of flavor, bringing a fragrant accent that pairs wonderfully.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

Poutine La Banquise

Squeaky cheese curds. Thick, salty gravy. Fresh, crispy fries. It's so magical when all these elements come together in harmony. During a recent trip up north, we found the mecca of all poutines at La Banquise in Montreal. We've always stuck to basic poutine at La Belle Province, a run-of-the-mill chain by my folks' place, but J and I decided to venture out on our own this time. After repeatedly seeing La Banquise featured on Cooking Channel's Unique Eats, it was time to stop salivating and experience this much hyped-about poutinerie. 

We were starving from a not-so-great wedding buffet and really needed a late night snack to cure some hangry grumps. Lucky for us La Banquise is open 24hrs a day. Now that's dedication to poutine. You know the food will be good when you have to wait in a long line. We opted for the takeout line for a shorter wait. La Banquise takes its poutine very seriously. Here you'll find 30 different kinds of poutine. You read that right. The Canadian delicacy ranges from a classic version to a Montreal favorite with smoked meat and even takes on Mexican flavors with guacamole and tomatoes. For us gluttons, "La Trois Viandes" was calling our names. 

Meet a mess of deliciousness in all its meaty glory. It's not pretty but man did it hit the spot. The ground beef had some crispy bits mixed in with bacon and the hot dogs were brilliantly cut to match the size of the french fries so every forkful had a bit of everything. This poutine had everything we wanted and more. The cheese curds squeaked so much it almost brought us to tears. We're always so disappointed whenever we come across a 518 poutine swimming in a thin gravy or melted curds. We've never gotten the whole trifecta with the exception of The Montreal Poutine Truck and CreoThe Canadians really have mastered the art of assembly. The gravy was just hot enough to coat the fries but not turn them into complete mush or melt the cheese. Even the fries tasted amazing, retaining some crisp despite the mound of toppings and gravy. How did we know it was the best poutine we ever had? The next day, we had it cold for breakfast and the flavors still held up. Looks like we'll be taking more road trips up north this summer. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

La Mexicana Grocery & Restaurant

Between all the buzz around Lettucegate and the Times Union review, how could we not check out La Mexicana Grocery & Restaurant. Lettuce aside, what was really on our radar were the beef tongue tacos. J has become a pretty adventurous eater with recent introductions to chicken livers, pigs feet, and balut. I on the other hand am no stranger to offals; it's always been part of my culture growing up and it's fun sharing these experiences with J now. 

For the most part, a lot of our Mexican dining experiences take place at the family restaurant at Leon's up in Saratoga Springs. But not all Mexican dishes are made the same so our lunch trip didn't quite seem like we were cheating on Leon's. Don't expect a fine dining experience at La Mexicana; it's a run-of-the-mill joint in appearance but with down-home authentic Mexican flavors. The menu is small and simple and remarkably affordable. How can you pass up on $2 tacos?! At such a steal, J and I decided to go for a flight of six tacos--one of each kind--with a pork tamale for good measure (another steal at $2.50) accompanied by a glass each of horchata and tamarindo agua fresca (also $2 each!). Horchata is a specialty drink made with rice, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla; think iced chai latte. Tamarindo is made with tamarind (a pod-like fruit also used in Asian cuisine and a very familiar flavor to me). This light, refreshing sweet and sour drink was the perfect accompaniment to our tacos. I'd come back just to have a gallon of this stuff. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Saigon Spring

It's no surprise that J and I are pho-natics. While Kim's Vietnamese is usually our go to for pho noodle soup, Saigon Spring excels at other classic Vietnamese dishes. My parents weren't able to come down for Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, so I wasn't able to get my share of homemade traditional foods. I had a hankering for bun thit nuong (grilled pork with rice noodles) and they make the best version of this dish up in Clifton Park. The pork is a great balance of sweet and savory with fragrant flavors of lemongrass, fish sauce, and garlic and grillled til there's a nice fatty char. Nothing is more disappointing than dry, overcooked pork but here it is juicy and mouth-watering good. But at the last minute, I had a change of heart and decided to celebrate New Year's with something more decadent. 

Another favorite dish that I use to get as a kid but haven't had in ages was mi xao don aka crispy noodles. While this dish is mostly Chinese influenced, it is a popular dish at Vietnamese restaurants and would be a special occasion dish to order. What better way to celebrate a holiday that is shared among Vietnamese and Chinese cultures alike. Saigon Spring's version is a seafood medley called do bien xao xa made with a lemongrass sauce. A bed of crispy noodles is covered in an array of giant plump shrimp, scallops, and mussels sauteed in sweet and spicy sauce with hunks of peppers and onions. It's a messy dish as you try to maneuver getting shards of crispy noodles into your mouth but the sauce softens some of the noodles creating a fun mix of textures. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Seoul Korean Restaurant

My first Korean food experience was over shots of soju (a potent rice liquor) and diy grilled bulgogi shortribs in the heart of New York City's K-Town. My soju drinking days were short-lived but once in awhile I'll long for the fiery kick of gochujang chili paste and all the fun little side dishes. For as long as I've lived in Albany, I never really sought out Korean restaurants until I came across a few Korean dishes at Kinnaree on Lark Street. Kinnaree is better known for its Thai specialities but once I tried a bibimbap bowl, I knew I had to seek out more Korean specialities. That's when J and I came across Seoul Korean Restaurant in Latham. We spotted Seoul while exploring Indian food at Shalimar's next door. We were dead set on satisfying a craving for Indian food on that particular night and knew we had to come back and visit their Korean neighbor.

This time, our trip to SKR was J's first Korean food experience. The menu is a modest combination of rice, stir-fry, and soup dishes. A friend once made homemade veggie pancakes and we were compelled to try the restaurant's seafood version (hae mool pah juhl) for an appetizer. This huge pancake was loaded with veggies like scallions, zucchini, and carrots and an assortment of seafood. The textural contrast of all the elements was delightful: crisp exterior, soft and moist inside, crunchy veggies, and chewy pieces of octopus. The pancake comes with soy sauce but I enjoyed it the most with bites of kimchi. 

Before our appetizers even came out we were treated to a typical spread of small side dishes known as banchan. These side dishes vary and on our recent trip we got a mix of pickled veggies ranging from the classic fermented spicy cabbage known as kimchi and pickled spicy radishes, a potato and onion stir fry, sauteed mushrooms, and wedges of a veggie egg omelet. They were all simple bites to nosh on but the star of the quintet was most definitely the homemade kimchi. Contrary to my own previous prejudices, Korean food isn't all about blow your head off spicy food. This signature Korean condiment is the perfect balance of sour and spicy and the cabbage still had a lovely crisp and crunch to it. Think of kimchi as Korean sauerkraut that pairs well with just about everything. Bonus: you can even get refills of your favorite banchan if you ask nicely. I recommend loading up on more kimchi.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Take on TU's Review of Kim's Vietnamese

I felt the need to write my own post on Kim's Vietnamese upon reading Bryan Fitzgerald's Times Union review. The review left me confused. Not that I don't doubt that restaurants have inconsistencies from time to time but some things about the review were off-putting enough for me to share my own thoughts. As a disclaimer, I am a first generation Vietnamese-American (nee Canadian but now a naturalized American) born and raised by immigrant parents. I live a very Americanized lifestyle and don't follow much in way of traditions but if there's one thing about my culture that I wholeheartedly appreciate, it's the food! I have a very unique perspective on Vietnamese food and you can't blame me for being so picky. Have you read what my mom packed for my school lunches? My parents are even more picky and never go out to Vietnamese restaurants unless it's for pho noodle soup. 

My parents and I have eaten pho at most of the Capital Region's Vietnamese restaurants with the exception of Pho Yum because it's a silly name and it's just not right to charge extra for meat on top of a base, and My Linh because they couldn't fathom paying $15 for canh chua soup (a peasant dish that my mom makes all the time) and a bowl of pho for two just didn't make sense. In fact, my dad made us walk out of My Linh upon being seated and seeing the menu. Told you they were picky.

You might think that I am biased towards all things Vietnamese but trust me when I say I've had mediocre Vietnamese food too. Perhaps my taste for Vietnamese food is more discerning than an American palette but I've trained my Irish-American boyfriend to love Vietnamese food and we both disagree with Fitzgerald's take on pho: "Beef broth in our pho — Pho Dac Biet ($8.95) — at Kim's Vietnamese in Albany was a bit weak, a tad sour, just underwhelming enough to fall onto the good-but-not-great side of the pho-broth spectrum." (Times Union).  At times we've had a fattier broth at Kim's but never underwhelming or weak. I don't know what Fizgerald's expectations of what a real pho broth tastes like but it's suppose to be a fine balance of aromatic spices and rich, beefy flavor that has good clarity to it and has a good depth of flavor. Perhaps Fitzgerald is use to places that use more of a bouillon-cube based broth (a taste that my mom has picked up on from other local joints). 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Casa Dominicana

I find lots of inspiration from fellow local food bloggers to try new and exciting places, mostly because I am salivating as I browse through their posts and pictures. My most recent adventure was inspired by Masticating Monkey's visit to Casa Dominicana for mofongo de chicharron on All Over Albany

One of my best friends was in town and we both have a love for all things culinary and food related. D is half Puerto Rican and knows her Latin food. Her Grandma makes a mean alcapurria and I can vouch for it. For the longest time we've been talking about getting mofongo but never knew where to find a good place for it in Albany. Lucky for us, AOA pointed us in the right direction for a lunch feast. 

Central Avenue never fails when it comes to getting authentic ethnic eats. No frills, no fusion-- just simple, good regional native food and that's what we found at Casa Dominicana. D, accompanied by her fiance J, were so excited to be greeted by a menu full of her childhood favorites. Casa Dominicana is a Dominican establishment but carries an array of Latin foods with Puerto Rican and Cuban favorites. I also have to mention how nice and accommodating the owner was. We were initially awestruck by the menu but he was very friendly, introducing each item in the hot trays and highlighting the specialties of the house.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

La Empanada Llama

We can officially add Peruvian cooking to our list of favorite ethnic eats. Just last week I got I got a chicken empanada from La Empanada Llama lunch stand at the Empire State Plaza. That empanada was so memorable that I had to track down the restaurant and share my find with J. 

I remember reading about the new La Empanada Llama storefront located in the Crestwood Plaza in Albany (same plaza as Spinner's Pizza) and can't believe I didn't make it a point to stop by earlier. J and I got to the place a little before closing time and and the restaurant was sadly empty except for the life size stuffed llamas. We decided to order a small feast to go which seems to be the norm vs. dine-in. 

Since empanadas are the specialty, we ordered one of each kind: beef, chicken, chorizo, and spinach and cheese. For little hand pies, these puppies were packed with flavor. The dough is light and flaky yet not too greasy from being fried. J's a "meatatarian" and the spinach and cheese was his favorite.  My favorite was the chorizo and cabbage empanada, which was different from the bright red and spicy Mexican chorizo that I'm normally use to. I was taken aback by the bites of raisins in the beef empanada but the sweetness worked so well with the spiced beef, corn and rice filling. As for the chicken, I can see why it's a Farmer's Market bestseller. It's cooked in a traditionally aji amarillo sauce, a Peruvian yellow chilli pepper, that is midly spicy but not as sharp as jalapenos. It's a good starter empanada, even for my co-worker who normally isn't adventurous and she loved her first time trying something new. Needless to say, not one bite of any of these empanadas was disappointing. It was a good balance of flavorful filling to crust. What we discovered is that there's so much more to La Empanada Llama than its signature empanadas.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NY Farm 2 Door Food Truck

Oh man do I love seeing a new food truck on the culinary scene, especially when it's on my lunch break. I am blessed with awesome lunch spots in Downtown Albany and that includes the outdoor Farmer's Market at the Empire State Plaza on Wednesdays and Fridays. My go to trucks on Farmer's Market days are usually Slidin' Dirty and Capital Q Smokehouse. It was refreshing to see some newcomers on the Plaza including DeFazio's Pizza, Empanada Llama, and 'Merican Food Truck. 

I'm looking forward to expanding my lunch choices but my eye, and stomach, was on the NY Farm 2 Door Food Truck. Not that that a burger was a healthy choice, but the fact that it was made with locally sourced and farm-raised beef made me feel better about my
food choices. I'm loving seeing more restaurants and now food trucks in Albany committed to using sustainable and seasonal ingredients from our local NYS farms. It just makes me feel better knowing where my food comes from. Back to the burger; NYF2D uses 100% grassfed beef that is dry aged for 40 days. At $6.50, it was very reasonably priced for the quality of the product. While on the smaller side, compared to the ginormous ones at CityBeer Hall, this burger was just the right portion for lunch and satisfying. It had a nice charred crust and was well-seasoned. I opted for maple-pickled jalapenos which gave the burger just the right kick. My only gripe is that I like my burger towards the medium-rare side. 

I can't wait to try the maple dusted doughnut holes, they're fried in pork fat! I'm sure a nice healthy salad with organic greens will balance those calories out.  The lunch chronicles to be continued as I hit up the rest of food trucks and vendors at the Empire State Plaza this summer. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

The New World Bistro Bar

Now that J got a new job that frees up weekends, we can go back to Sunday Brunch. It's one of our favorite culinary adventures and we always go back to our go to favorite brunch spot: The New World Bistro BarAs Food Network fans, we love the fact that owner Ric Orlando is a Chopped Champion.  But NWBB is also one of few places where we've consistently been blessed with excellent service and delicious food. 

NWBB prides itself in utilizing local, seasonal foods but also incorporates global flavors that give that unique twist that we love, especially Asian flavors.  We love New World so much we're considering using their catering for our wedding. Perfect for blending my Asian family's palette with J's Irish American family's taste. 

With each season comes a different menu and sometimes that means favorites like the Korean BBQ pork belly burrito doesn't stick around for long. However, it gives way to reincarnated dishes like the Korean Steak and Eggs. This delicious bowl of Creekstone all natural prime beef skewers, kim chee stew, Korean BBQ and local pea shoots with poached eggs captured those flavors that we were craving. 

One of our favorite brunch items that is a regular on the menu is the hash trio. Why have one hash when you can have it three ways? This is J's go to plate (minus the veggie hash since he is anti-mushroom). The hash tasting comes with the Mystic clam has, quintessential corned beef hash, and veggie hash. I don't mind the veggie hash which comes with roasted eggplant, squash, potatoes, mushroom and peppers. It's a nice light bite to the richer versions of the clam and corned beef hash. The Mystic clam is rich and briny with chopped quahogs and creamy with the bernaise sauce. As for the corned beef hash, you can't go wrong with the classics;it's one of the best in this area. Canned corned beef and hash is an embarrasement compared to NWBB's corned beef.  Other delicious brunch items to consider are the salmon eggs benedict and huevos traditionales with chorizo. One of these days I'll get around to trying the sweeter side of brunch, but I love the savory stuff! -R

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pho 88

Sorry for the long hiatus! J & R just got back from a week-long vacation in Maine. We made a point of stopping by some of the best foodie spots in Portland and discovered some great gems along the way and can't wait to share them with you within the next few posts. We are still recovering and slowly detoxing with lots of veggies and salad since I'm pretty sure our cholesterol levels are up the roof. But let me tell you how helpful Yelp was on this year's trip! 

Armed with the trusty Yelp and Foodspotting phone apps, we found a great little Vietnamese place in Lowell, MA. No McDonald's rest area lunch stops for us! If you find yourself anywhere near this area, make a point to stop by Pho 88. I was craving my mom's Bun Bo Hue (a spicy vermicelli soup, with soft tendon, sliced shank, ground shrimp and pork) and was so surprised to find it on the menu that I had to have it and boy did it hit the spot. This version even came with black blood pudding, a little bit too adventurous/Andrew Zimmern Bizzare Food-esque, even for me. The broth was perfectly spicy and full of delightful aromas like lemongrass. It was just as good as mom's (just don't tell her that). 

I'm pretty sure I got J addicted to pho since we started dating. If you have yet to try Vietnamese food, start out with this noodle soup and you'll be hooked. I make an o.k. chicken pho at home (in the crock pot!) but for the beef pho, we usually go out to Van's Vietnamese Restaurant in Albany or Saigon Spring in Clifton Park for the real deal bowl of goodness. One hot steaming bowl of pho is sure to cure any illness. Pho 88's version was just as good, if not better than Albany's. To drink, J had a tra da chanh (limeade made with jasmine tea) and I had a a durian milkshake with tapioca bubbles. Durian! Yup, it's that's funky fruit that to some people smells vile, is banned in enclosed spaces in Asia, but that I find oh so delicious! 

I wish Vietnamese restaurants here in Albany had as much variety as Pho 88 in Mass. They have dishes like bun rieu (Shrimp and crab meat with vermicelli noodle in a special crab tomato soup) and bun mang vit (Duck leg and fried bamboo shoots with vermicelli noodles soup) that are quintessential Vietnamese dishes that I crave and can't get around these parts, unless I place a special
order with mom when she comes to visit. I can't even get a proper bahn mi sandwich (the real deal baguette made with rice flour and schmear of pate) and that makes me want to start up a food truck just so I can eat one. The best ones by the way, are the ones made in Montreal. The Canadian-French-Vietnamese folk make a mean baguette. But until our next road trip east, I'll settle for Albany pho. -R

Monday, April 29, 2013

What's Cooking?

Does salad for dinner sound whimpy? Not when you have a grill. 

Let me blow your mind: try grilling your romaine lettuce. Say what? Trust me, try it, and thank me later. There's something about getting a smoky char on lettuce that somehow brings out its inherent sweetness and elevates a salad to a whole new level. I usually just dress with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I call the grill J's second girlfriend and grilling lettuce is a perfect way to get some greens in him while satisfying his need to set things on fire.  

Naturally, a grilled steak pairs well with grilled lettuce. I decided to try Chrissy Teigen's recipe for Thai Beef Salad (Yum Nua). Nevermind the fact that she's a supermodel, but the girl loves bacon as much as I do and she is half Thai.I'd like to pretend that we are long lost sisters but I am no model,am Viet, and not engaged to John Legend but to an equally dashing guy. Props to Chrissy and her blog, So Delushious! It's a hilarious read. 

I had a few missing ingredients (cilantro, thai chili powder, tomatoes) but even without them,  just dressing the meat made for a super flavorful but light dish overall. Salty, sweet, and spicy. What more could you want? Didn't even need extra dressing on the salad, and you don't miss it either. On a whim, I decided to add mint to the salad which gave it another delightful herby dimension. 

Give grilled lettuce a try and let me know what you think. Happy grilling. -R