You know what makes the best Christmas presents? The edible and delicious kind. We've told you how much we loveTC Paris Bakery but let us tell you how much we love it even more. Now that TC has its very own storefront and kitchens, they're offering more specialty confections. For the procrastinators out there, these local treats are the perfect last minute gifts or a great addition to your holiday dessert spread.
Behold the Winter Cookie: a buttery shortbread cookie topped with crunchy toasted almonds, a chewy honey caramel, and orange zest dipped in Valrhona dark chocolate. This cookie is a delightful combination of textures and the floral notes from the orange blossom honey is so unique. We're planning on bringing a 1lb tin to Christmas dinner, minus maybe a few cookies because yours truly couldn't wait to share. You might want to hurry up to get these Winter Cookies. In true Alsace French tradition, TC Paris is only making these cookies up until January 2nd and then they are gone until next year! It's a one of kind cookie!
Just in time for the holidays are jars of French brandied cherries. We got a special taste of this holiday item and it was lick-the-spoon-clean good. Tart sour cherries imported from France are infused with brandy, cloves, and cinnamon. Chef tells us they would be a great addition to the bottom of a champagne glass. That's something we could toast to and so would your guests!
There are also a variety of chocolate dipped fruits and confectionaries but you can't go wrong with a sleeve of TC Bakery's signature French macarons. We're avid fans of flavors like salted caramel and earl grey but new flavors like the chocolate dipped strawberry macarons are quickly rising to the top of our favorites. A flavorful and creamy strawberry buttercream with a dollop of chocolate ganache is sandwiched between delicate crisp and chewy almond shells. These macarons would be a great gift alongside its fresh chocolate-dipped strawberry counterparts.
Be sure to make TC Paris Bakery part of your holiday. It's well worth a trip to Saratoga Springs. These are beautiful, quality handmade items made from the best ingredients and crafted by talented bakers. Your guests will be in awe and don't forget to get a little something for yourself too (or a lot!). You deserve it :)
This past week was Restaurant Week in Downtown Albany. For those not from the area, or the blissfully unaware within the area, this is a week that restaurants advertise a three course meal for a low low price of $20.13. As first-timers, we were afraid restaurants would cheap out on menu items and portion sizes. I feel like I've been the negative nellie on this blog, which is hopefully not a reflection of my real life attitude. I do tend to be the one to write when we have a bad experience, for whatever reason. Today, however, I want to tell everyone about a fantastic experience we had at The Hollow Bar + Kitchen in Downtown Albany. The Hollow. Though it failed to live up to its name in that we saw no headless horsemen--this is more disappointing to me than you'd think--the food, service, and hospitality managed to overcome this deficit. Walking in the interior is fairly nondescript, with simple brick walls and white linen tablecloths. The lighting is a little low, though I didn't have an issue reading anything (possibly because we sat near the window), and the music and atmosphere generally comes across as rock-indyish to me, but I may just be a cultural gorilla.
A few weeks ago, J and I went on an impromptu brew tour to Ommegang Brewery and Council Rock Brewery. On our way to Cooperstown, we stopped by the village of Sharon Springs to visit the Beekman 1802 Mercantile and ever since that pitstop, I couldn't imagine not having a Beekman birthday. So this past Saturday, I spent my 28th birthday enjoying the simple things in life. No boots of beer or giant margaritas this year. If you watch Cooking Channel, you might recognize The Fabulous Beekman Boys aka Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge from their reality show as city guys who left their Manhattan ways, bought a farm and decided to become full time farmers and raise goats. You might also recognize the Beekman Boys as the most recent winners of The Amazing Race. The Beekmans now make artisanal products from vegetables and goat milk from their farm. They are well-known for their goat milk soap, a product beloved by Martha Stewart. Now they have expanded their lifestyle brand to include edible products like goat cheese and goat milk ice cream.
Of course I was good on my birthday and had lunch before dessert. My
Beekman birthday wouldn't be complete without some Beekman Blaak mac 'n
cheese, courtesy of the Black Cat Cafe conveniently located a couple
doors down from the mercantile. At $48 a wheel for the Beekman Blaak
cheese that is on a giant waitlist, it's a bit steep for my pocket but
at $7 for a bowl of mac 'n cheese made with the same cheese at the cafe,
it's worth a try. The blaak cheese is a hard cheese that melts
beautifully in this mac 'n cheese. My only gripe is that the dish
desperately needed salt and pepper but otherwise, an afternoon lunch
spent outside on the porch was a perfect way to spend my birthday afternoon. The mac is a small portion so I was glad I ordered a side of Lebanese potato salad,
which was mayo-less and a nice tangy alternative to the heavy classic. J of course went with a reuben and gave it a thumbs up.
The goat milk ice cream is worth the trip alone, and well it was the only thing I really wanted for my birthday. It's that good. We actually stopped by the Mercantile during the day and on our way back to Albany stopped by again in the evening for the Ice Cream Jam. The Beekman 1802
Mercantile was hoppin' on a Saturday night with 80s music and glow
sticks, which Brent insisted on giving us to wear. Brent even let me skip the
request line and put Safety Dance on top of the DJ list as a birthday
present. But the real treat of the night was a half pint of Beekman goat's milk ice cream. If you love the tanginess of goat cheese, you'll love this ice cream. The Beekman's version (part goat milk and cow's cream) is smooth, creamy and rich but that goat's milk gives the ice cream such a unique tangy flavor that you'll want a whole pint rather than the half pint that it comes in. No artificial flavors here so you'll feel that much better eating it. I've tried 3 out of the four flavors and I'd rank the Cateja Caramel Swirl (of course it's a goat's milk caramel) at the top followed by the Tart Cherry Almond Swirl (with sour cherries from the farm) and the classic vanilla flavor. The last of the flavors, fig balsamic, has eluded me but I'm determined to try on the next trip. Also, if you're thinking of brining some goat milk ice cream back to Albany, it travels pretty well in a cooler bag :) The Beekmans will even
offer you ice if you need it.
For more edible Beekman 1802 products, be sure to sample the creamed honeys (from Beekman Farm bees of course); we've picked up jars of lemon creamed honey and rosemary creamed honey. Another favorite of ours is the hickory smoked sea salt. This has been our crack of the summer. We sprinkle it on everything from steaks (the Meathouse kind of course) and simply on fresh cucumber slices for a healthy snack with a smokey flavor. We can't wait to try the Mortgage Lifter Bourbon BBQ sauce, which 25% of the profits are donated to directly help struggling small American farmers. Obviously that million dollar prize from the Amazing Race has gone a long way, yet Josh and Brent remain as community oriented as they were when they first started the business. Not to mention they are as friendly and personable as they are on tv. Josh and Brent are truly the most humble and nice celebrities I've met and to see them behind the scenes at the shop shows how much they care about their business, even after moments of fame. You can't help but smile and want to be their best friends when you meet them. P.S. Read Josh's book, The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir, about their Beekman journey. It's a great summer read. -R