Thursday, December 29, 2005

Nino's bakery in Albany

Today, a rainy, dreary late December day, on the way back from the Honest Weight Food Co-op, my husband and I stopped at a tiny hole-in-the-wall bakery called Nino's, on King Ave., right off Central (their official address is 718 Central Ave., but the customer entrance is on King.) It's holiday season, and they're bustling in there: phone was ringing, somewhat hassled-looking guy was alone operating the storefront, which seems to be a small fraction of the large warehouse-like bakery space behind.

They have really authentic Italian pastries: cannoli (in the back-- you have to ask special!), lemon cookies, other assorted cookies, breads, and these amazing almond biscotti that are unlike any others, but a wonder unto themselves. These biscotti are more eggy than others (the ones I make at home are crunchier and drier), but they taste fresh and have just the perfect chew : crunch ratio. I could probably eat an entire dozen of them if I wasn't thinking about consequences.

Nino's seems to do a lot of their business with commercial customers, but don't miss this little gem of a bakery right across from the dreaded Dunkin Donuts and OTB racing center. They even had taralli when I first visited back in August or so (taralli are little donut-shaped Italian crackers to go with wine-- simple but delicious, and some are baked with herbs. They are boiled then baked, so it's the kind of thing I'd rather someone else make. If I get desperate enough and try to make them myself, I'll post about it here). They also sell taralli at the St. Anthony's festival in Schenectady around August, which is when I first got the idea I might be able to find them lurking in one of the several old-fashioned Italian bakeries around here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Indian food

The Capital District is a great place to be if you are a vegetarian like me and you love Indian and Middle Eastern food.

If you love Indian food and haven't yet been to Karavalli on Johnson Road in Latham, you must go! The web site doesn't do it justice, because the decor is fresh, cheerful and modern, yet still Indian in style. Their menu is online in case you are skeptical. The service is attentive, and you will find it pleasantly full of patrons-- yet not offensively so.

Tonight I went there with my husband and his mom, and we had: Idly (dome-shaped dumplings served with yummy sauces); garlic naan (goodbye cold viruses and all but my best friends!!); chai masala teas; vegetable korma for my mother-in-law; vegetable Chettinadu for me (an actual cinnamon stick was presented on top); and malai kofta for my husband. Everyone was happy with their meal.

But the piece de resistance, for me was, is, and always will be the lemon pickle. It is hot, it is sour, it tastes of the essence of lemon, and I could actually eat a whole bowl of it. It is lemon as you've never had it before: forget lemonade, forget lemon chiffon pie. Lemon pickle is the only real, true lemon: the Platonic ideal of lemon. It clears the head and the sinuses almost instantly, and transports me to a place where lemon trees grow in abundance (not Latham, New York) and where food is multifaceted, real, and passionate (i.e., some other country besides this one, which is going to hell in a big-box chain restaurant). NB: they have lemon pickle at the affordable and delicious lunch buffet, and you can get as much as you want. Truly, it's heaven!

Other Indian restaurants of note around here are:

  • Shalimar, which has two locations, one on Fulton Street in Troy, and one on Central Ave. in Albany- Decent, homey American-style Indian food with an inexpensive lunch buffet. This restaurant is popular with RPI students and profs., and has been a downtown Troy standby for years.
  • Latham Biryani, on Route 9, near Newton Plaza- also a homey atmosphere (read: somewhat drab but comfortable) with what some friends of ours claim is slightly spicier food than Shalimar.
  • The Sitar- I haven't been here in a while, but it has a slightly jazzier atmosphere than the above two restaurants, but about the same quality of food (basic American-watered-down Indian).
  • Thunder Mountain Curry- Not a restaurant, but a mobile eatery you can find often (but not always) at the Troy Farmer's Market and sometimes on Fifteenth Street in front of the RPI campus center building. If Thunder Mountain Curry was a restaurant, they would probably best Karavalli (ohmigod, did I just say that?!?!) even though they are run by gringos. I say this only because their food is less greasy (there is practically no grease, well, okay maybe the pakoras, which are deep fried, have a slight shine, but they are supposed to!), and the chutneys and sauces are a marvel, all home-made.

Dining in and around Troy, New York

I'm starting this web log because there is a dearth of honest, hearty information about restaurants, groceries, and bakeries in the Capital District. is great, but it takes forever to load their pages. I like my food (and reviews) served fresh!

I also intend to write about other good shopping venues (clothing, antiques, and books are my main staples) and finds in this area.

Since this is my first blog, I'm not yet sure if I will write book reviews and related literary musings here, or if I need to start another blog for that.

For now, I remain yours humbly
blogista bija