When I was a little kid I wanted to open my own restaurant, it would be called “Just Chicken”. Why? Because who doesn’t like chicken! Of course now I realize there are many people who don’t like it, but if you do, I highly, seriously, completely, and 100% absolutely, recommend getting a fried chicken sandwich at the new Albany restaurant The Cuckoo’s Nest.
If there is one thing I know to be true in my life, it’s that coffee is always the answer. With a caffeine habit that keeps me between 1 to 3 cups a day, I was looking forward to the delivery of my coffee beans from Current Coffee Roasters. That is until I realized I wasn’t even sure I knew how to make “real coffee”.
Hey Y’all! I know, it’s a cliche way to start a blog about my recent trip to Texas, but after spending just 4 days in the Big D I have already caught myself using Y’all in regular conversation. In case you missed it on my Instagram, I was in Dallas for a few days during the end of October and I have to say, it was absolutely nothing like I had expected.
Food crawls are serious business. It takes a little bit of spontaneity, ambition, and strength to complete one from start to finish. I learned this first hand during the 6th Annual Wing Walk in Schenectady this October. Although I’ve done food crawls before like Chowderfest in Saratoga, I wasn’t sure what to expect this time around, except for the obvious fact that I would be consuming a substantial number of chicken wings.
It was a hot day. The kind of hot where there is not one cloud in the sky and the sun pierces your skin from the moment you walk out the door. It was an unfamiliar city. The kind where the currency was different and a passport was required. Continue reading “Canadian Bacon Has A Real Name”
On Thursday afternoon I unlocked my phone for my usual afternoon scroll through Instagram. I opened to a post from The Alt, a weekly newspaper I pick up whenever I see it out and about. The post was promoting a contest– free tickets to select events at the Saratoga Wine and Food Festival. I’ve entered Instagram contests before, liking posts and tagging friends with no real chance of winning, but I never give up hope that someday I will win, and so I once again commented below to enter.
On Friday, pre-occupied with work and life, I had already forgotten about the contest I had entered not even 24 hours prior. I quickly recalled when I received a direct message from The Alt letting me know that I had won 2 tickets to the Fired Up! Event at the Saratoga Wine and Food Festival. No time to go home and change, I hoped that the weather would hold up as I rushed from work to Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Upon arrival I found my way to the box office to pick up my tickets, got my wristband and followed the path of guests leading to a beautiful tent full of music, food, and fun.
My eyes were immediately drawn to the Stella Artois area. Adirondack chairs lined fire pits while white lights and big red umbrellas covered the tables alongside a large silver trailer that doubled as the bar. Beside the bar, a Stella Artois photo backdrop was calling my name. With a sip of Cidre and a picture with my new Stella chalice, I was ready to take on the food.
There were 8 participants, competing for crowd approval and serving their small plates to a panel of judges. The theme of the evening was barbecue, and each of the participants were serving up dishes from tri-tip steak to grilled pork shoulder. First, I visited [Forged], and took on the harissa tri-tip with duck fat fingerling potato. I’ve never heard of [Forged] and I would consider visiting their Hudson Falls restaurant, but their steak was by far my least favorite for one reason. At food tastings like this, it’s important for the dishes to be easy to eat. Often times it’s crowded and tables are limited, combine this atmosphere with only a plastic fork as a utensil, and you get a very difficult eating situation. While the dish was probably great, it was very hard to eat the steak this way, making the first tasting one of my least favorite of the evening.
Next stop was the Lunazul Tequila tent for an Apple Cider Margarita that I sipped alongside plate number two, Ama Cocina’s stuffed summer sopes with grilled deconstructed street corn. On top sat flavorful grilled tri-tip with pico de gallo, queso fresco, lime aioli and cotija cheese. Let me tell you, the fried corn masa dough was everything, but the small cup of grilled street corn was the icing on the cake.
We wasted no time as we closed in on the last sip of the margarita and moved straight across the tent to the Woodford Reserve bar. They were serving up a mixed drink with berries and bourbon. I’m not a bourbon kind of girl, but I drank it nonetheless. Ready for something more to munch on, I visited the 677 Prime table to taste their Korean bbq tri-tip taco with jicama slaw. Jicama is one of those ingredients i’ve heard about many times on shows like Chopped but never tried in real life. The taco included many different ingredients including sesame garlic aioli, jalapeno, sweet chili vinaigrette, jicama, sweet corn, cabbage, and chicharrones. I decided that this taco was worth sitting down for and I was right. Flavorful yet not overwhelming, and significantly easier to eat, the 677 Prime taco was only my third plate of the night but I had already determined it was definitely a contender for top dish.
After a stroll around the tent, scoping out the Tito’s bar, and taking a second to check out the Maserati’s parked on the lawn I moved on to the next tasting. The pulled pork from Salt and Char was tasty though the summer vegetables it was served with weren’t my favorite. My biggest complaint though– the fact that this tasting required two separate dishes. One plate hosted the chili charred shishito peppers and pimento cheese while another hosted the pulled pork and corn succotash. If my hands are full of dishes how am I supposed to eat? More importantly, how am I supposed to take a picture?!
Next up was a Capital Region favorite, Druthers Brewing! While the Druthers Brewing plating was an A+ it was the bourbon ketchup and pickle brined french fries that gave the dish life. Right next door, Max London’s char grilled Brazilian sirloin piri piri with black bean croquettes was next level in terms of spice. Yes, I had to Google piri piri, and yes it was really, really good. Of course anything fried is delicious so the croquette was the perfect touch.
Morrissey’s Lounge was at the end of the tent and by this time I had eaten my fill, but I grabbed a glass of red blend and took my plate of grilled hangar steak with bone marrow chimichurri, peruvian potato salad, and smoked baby corn. The hangar steak was by far the most well cooked of the evening and had I known this previously, I may have opted to stop here before filling up on some of the other dishes.
The night was coming to a close and voting was about to start so we moved quickly towards a final stop to taste what Brown’s Brewing Company had to offer. Brown’s had it tough. They too had a taco that didn’t quite live up to it’s predecessors from Ama Cocina and 677 Prime. Though they added an extra element with roasted corn and tomato salad, it was the other brewery, Druthers, that brought home the official win of the night.
The evening wasn’t just food and drink, it was music as well. Inside the food tent there was a DJ entertaining a crowd of dancers while outside another crowd was jamming out at the silent disco. If you’ve never been to a silent disco, it involves headphones and a few different station choices. In this case, the headphones with the green lights were playing 80’s hits and the headphones with the blue lights played today’s pop hits. I am a terrible dancer, with no rhythm and no ability to carry a tune, but I found myself dancing (slightly and without much coordination) to the music inside my headphones.
I’ve never won an Instagram contest and I’ve never been to Saratoga Wine and Food Festival, two things I can now check off my bucket list. Tastings like these are what foodie dreams are made of and I am beyond grateful I got to attend!
When it comes to deciding what’s for dinner, it’s always a challenge. “What are you in the mood for?” “I don’t know, what are you in the mood for?” is the consistent without fail back and forth that I encounter. The pressure is always on me as the resident “foodie” to make the call and it’s not always the best position to be in, especially when everyone is getting hangry. Continue reading “Taking On Troy: Sunhee's Farm and Kitchen”
A few days ago I heard a guy about my age say how he hated living here. “There’s nothing to do,” he explained, as he tried to rationalize his distaste for the 518. I kept my mouth shut, because everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But the fact of the matter is, the Capital Region will never have the same hustle and bustle as Manhattan, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do.
For anyone in their twenties or older, there are plenty of activities, it’s just a matter of finding and knowing what’s going on. And now with the introduction of ride sharing (FINALLY) the options just continue to grow.
This blog is a little bit different because I realize that everyone is different. To say there are a ton of great things to do and then continue to recommend only the things that I like wouldn’t likely be that effective. I know, for me, I fill my days trying new restaurants, going to local events, and well, drinking. But other people might prefer outdoor activities like hiking or boating, or maybe they’re shoppers looking for the next best thing. I’m not an expert on anything and everything across Upstate, but I can offer some tips on how to keep busy in the 518.
- Utilize Social Media
My number one tip is to use social media. Odds are you have at least a Facebook or Instagram page and these are my go-to sources when I’m looking for something to do. Pay attention to the events your friends are “interested” in on Facebook and take note if it’s something you’d like to do. Say you’re interested and save it to your Facebook feed, then weeks later when you’ve totally forgot, Facebook will send you a nice reminder and suddenly you’ve got something to do.
Sometimes when I’m mindlessly scrolling through my feed I’ll go to the events page and search events near me. This is a great way to find anything and everything from a happy hour special to a concert.
The same thing goes for Instagram. Pay attention to where people are posting and click on the tagged locations that interest you. Or you can utilize Instagram in a different way, researching different location tags and see where other people have posted around those places. I’ve used Instagram to not only find places to go out to eat, but also things like new stores opening up and even a quarry for cliff jumping! Sometimes it takes a bit of work, but social media is always a source for information.
2. Read The Local Paper
Full disclaimer, I don’t read the Times Union. I don’t read the Wall Street Journal or the New York Post. But I do follow the Times Union on Facebook and I do check out the Albany Business Review. Local papers are always a great source of information. I make an effort to always pick up free newspapers and magazines whenever I see them to help stay in the know. Some of the ones I like to grab include The Alt and Edible Capital District.
3. Try New Things
Sometimes the reason it feels like there is nothing to do is because you’re looking to do the same few things and you’ve exhausted all the excitement! Try driving home a different way and take in your surroundings, you never know what you might find. Love mexican food and margaritas, check out Yelp and see what other places you could try. Usually one to stay out until 3 AM drinking? Switch up the routine and get up nice and early for a hike in the Adirondack mountains.
There is always something to do around the Albany area, it’s just a matter of putting in the effort to find out. Try out these tips and you’ll find yourself with more things to do than days you have time for. As always, follow me on Instagram to keep up with the new restaurants I’m visiting!
What’s your favorite thing to do in Upstate New York?
If time and money were no option, it’s likely this list would not only be quite a bit longer, but it would likely be quite a bit different as well. If you’re looking for a list of fine dining establishments, with delicacies like caviar and expensive bottles of champagne, you’ve come to the wrong place. However, if you’re on a burger and beer budget like myself, you might like what I’ve got to say.
Over the last few months I’ve visited a diverse array of restaurants around the Albany area. I’ve gone out for breakfast, taken a lunch break somewhere new, and splurged a little at dinner. Now, I’ve ranked them for you. You’re welcome.
Puzzles is an easy stop for lunch as it’s right down the street from my office. A charming cafe with giant cookies that are to die for, the real allure to visiting Puzzles is knowing you’re doing something good for the community. With essentially the same menu as a place like Panera Bread, with soups, salads, and sandwiches, the difference is Puzzles’ support for locals with developmental disabilities. It’s easy to want to support a business that not only provides adults in the community a place to grow, socialize, and earn an income, but has good quality products as well.
I can’t speak highly enough of the m&m sugar cookie, but if you’re looking for something a little bit more substantial, I recommend the Greek salad.
8. Kru Coffee
There are not a lot of local coffee shops around me so I often find myself traveling a little bit to find one that isn’t Starbucks or Dunkin’. I check Yelp once and a while to try and find some new ones that I might not have heard of before, but this one came to me on Instagram.
Located in Saratoga, I was expecting Kru to be located centrally in downtown, but it was a little bit off the beaten path located in a relatively new plaza. With two floors and a variety of table sizes from comfortable chairs to long shared tables there’s a spot for everyone. Whether you’re looking to sit down with your laptop and work or catch up with an old friend, you can find comfort at Kru. While I would recommend going to Kru for the coffee, there was a limited selection of food such as breakfast sandwiches and muffins if you need some fuel while working away. I tried the maple cinnamon latte, and it was delicious.
7. Pasta Pane
Clifton Park is home to Pasta Pane, and home to one of my favorite versions of an Italian classic, a giant bowl of Bolognese. With pappardelle noodles and a chunky (but not too chunky) mix of meats and veggies, the Bolognese was filling and flavorful. I topped it off with some parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper, forcing myself to stop when I was full even though I wanted to devour it all.
While I really enjoyed the food, the atmosphere wasn’t my favorite. It was very dark and simultaneously very loud, making it hard to talk while between bites. To make matters worse, the waiter continued to fill up our water glasses every 5 seconds, disrupting the conversation. Judging on food alone, a carb filled Friday night at Pasta Pane is a must.
I’ve made a couple trips to Cider Belly Doughnuts in downtown Albany over the last few months, trying many of the different flavors, from the classic cider doughnut to some of the more funky flavors including maple bacon and mint chocolate cookie.
A true testament to how good the doughnuts are at Cider Belly is the fact that I’m actually not a doughnut person, but find myself craving a stop at Cider Belly. If you stop in, make sure to get at least a half dozen, and try a few of the delicious flavors because they’re always whipping up something new.
I waited outside the Iron Gate Cafe for almost 45 minutes before being seated at a table. A popular Albany spot for brunch, Iron Gate Cafe has a classic selection of brunch food like omelets, eggs benedict, waffles, and pancakes. In addition to the classics, they have both meal and drink specials worth trying. I opted for the cinnabon waffles and a rosebud lemonade (including a splash of prosecco), the specials of the day during my spring visit.
With a gated (hence the name) outdoor patio, somewhat removed from the road, I imagine the wait for an outside table is incredibly long in the warmer months. If you end up sitting inside, you’re in for a treat as well. The Cafe is a lot larger than I anticipated, essentially a renovated mansion with rooms and wallpapers you can never forget.
If you’ve ever been around the 518 region for at least a few hours with the radio on you’ve probably heard a Guptill’s commercial. While there are a ton of different ice cream places around to enjoy, Guptill’s is the ice cream Mecca, with hundreds of options from unique soft and hard flavors, to sprinkles, dips, and more. A personal favorite–coffee and vanilla twist with chocolate sprinkles. Of course you can get good ice cream all over the Capital Region, but Guptill’s is definitely worth a stop at least once a summer.
3. Tara Kitchen
I’ve never been to Morocco but a lunch at Tara Kitchen transported me as close as I’m going to get any time soon. At first, I wanted to try something safe, like grilled chicken or something along those lines, but ultimately decided to push my boundaries. I ordered the lamb meatballs which came in a red sauce over rice with a side of potatoes.
Before the meal arrived we were given a small glass of hot tea to sip on. Our meal arrived shortly after ordering and we ate on the enclosed back door patio with a few other lunch goers. I was glad to eat outside as the interior of Tara Kitchen was quite small making the temperature very warm. My first venture to the restaurant was at the original location in Schenectady, but a new location has recently arrived in Troy. If you’re looking to try something adventurous, I recommend you give it a try.
2. La Mexicana
From the outside La Mexicana looks like a place you might just keep driving past. A little bit dingy and attached to a grocery store, I was slightly nervous despite that I had heard La Mexicana was good. Authenticity is what makes this place a success with tacos reminisicient of the ones I got from a food truck in Mexico.
The prices are unbeatable. 3 tacos for somewhere around $6 is nearly impossible to find but La Mexicana does it effortlessly, full of flavor pork, chicken, or steak upon corn tortillas. Don’t be discouraged by the outward appearance or the parking lot in the back, if you’re looking for some tasty, authentic tacos, stop by La Mexicana on State Street in Schenectady.
Previously known as Beer Belly, Albany Ale & Oyster on New Scotland in downtown Albany is your spot for brunch, lunch, and you guessed it, beer. I spent mother’s day eating lunch outside on the patio, sipping on a seasonal sangria and enjoying a french dip sandwich. The presentation was on point; our sandwiches were delivered on black slates with a side of crisp potato chips in a brown bag, making the meal more picture worthy than usual.
Inside, there is an intriguing selection of craft beers available for sale, as well as on tap. I’m not an oyster person, but as you can guess Albany Ale & Oyster has them on the menu. A diverse selection of menu options make it easy to find something everyone can enjoy and a place definitely worth stopping by.
Have somewhere you think I need to go? Let me know in the comments and as always, see you on Instagram
Drive too fast down Route 5 in Glenville and you might just miss it. Keep your eyes peeled for the “Your Beer Brewed Here” sign and pull onto the gravel drive. From the moment you pull into the parking lot, to the second you finish your last sip of beer, there is something distinctly special about Wolf Hollow Brewing Company.