Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sushi Thai at the Park

It was a rainy day, and I was about to get a head cold (although I didn't know it yet). My husband and I had lunch at Sushi Thai, and it was just what I was hoping it would be-- warming, good, and modern. I think it may have postponed my cold a bit. It at least gave me some good food memories while I recuperated.

There really aren't that many Thai places in the Capital Region (one on Lark Street that's very hole-in-the-wall; and Thai Bangkok on Wolf Road), so I was excited to learn of Sushi Thai. There is another one in Saratoga, where I have been once before. The Clifton Park location has a clean, modern feeling with an open airy big room with a bar/sushi area. A pleasant place to dine. At around 1:30 pm we missed the lunch crowd, but there was one other couple there while we ate.

We shared spring rolls to start, and they were small, but good. Then came the main courses: chicken thai melon curry for me, and red curry for him. They looked pretty much identical, but they did not taste entirely the same. My husband's dish was milder and had a definite, yummy basil taste. There were actual basil leaves in his sauce. Mine was nice and spicy. Thai melon is a sort of zucchini. I had fun imagining the big vats of sauce they must keep in the kitchen, along with prepared vegetables and meats.

The menu is extensive, although we ordered from the mix 'n match curry section. There are also sushi options, rice, noodles, and fried dishes. They also have things like Tamarind or Bangkok duck. And of course, Pad Thai, which I plan on trying next time

There is something sweet and inviting about the place that makes you want to go back. Maybe it's the little good luck kitty in the entranceway.

Sushi Thai is located at 1707 Route 9 in Clifton Park.
Telephone: 348-0100. Hours:
M-Sun. 11:30-3
Sun.-Thurs. 5 pm - 10 pm and Fri. and Sat 5-10:30.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Making Pierogies

Well, I actually did it. For the first time in my life, I made noodles from scratch and then filled them to make pierogies. I have to say it was way easier than I imagined! I used my hands to blend the dough together and it was really easy to knead (way easier than bread dough). The most time-consuming part was filling and boiling all those little dumplings (about 50 total!) But the best part is that now I have lots of frozen pierogies that all we have to do to eat is defrost and fry. The picture to the left shows the pierogies after they've been boiled for about 8 minutes.

And here they are after they've been fried in coconut oil:I got the recipe from this web site; none of the cookbooks I have at home had really adequate recipes for the noodle dough. I knew that just flour and water wasn't going to cut it (as one of my cookbooks advised). So I went for this one, which uses a high fat content with butter and sour cream. And indeedy they were delicious! I also managed to use up 3 heads of cabbage that I had grown in my garden for the filling. For the filling I used a recipe from Please to the Table, a wonderful cookbook with Russian and Eastern European recipes. It called for cabbage, chopped egg, dill, and salt and pepper. The dill I had growing in my garden, so that was easy. I also added some fried onion.

There is something wonderful about really making food from scratch like this. I thought it would take up lots of time; but instead, it expanded out my time and involved all my senses. And I involved my husband in the filling/boiling part, so it was even bonding time. Ultimately it saved me time because I didn't have to go to the grocery store or out to get food, and instead I made several meals' worth of food in one evening.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

August notes...

I've been really delinquent on this blog lately because I've been busy! The garden is bursting right now and I have some food canning/preserving to do. Farmer's Market today for eggs and cookies. Making zucchini pancakes and salsa tomorrow. I've been buying wild-caught salmon at Hannaford and grilling it= out of this world.

Some notes:
last night went to Bellini's in Clifton Park and it was okay, but not the kind of place you'd go out of your way for. Typical suburban strip mall Italian joint with huge portions, over-friendly waitstaff, but decent pastas. Our salad was pathetic, though: lots of the greens were actually yellow. Which to my mind is inexcusable this time of year. We needed to get out of the house, though, and the pasta with chicken in garlic cream sauce was pretty good.

We Love Troy!
Just in case you haven't seen this, it's worth a gander:

It says: Burke's Blue Collar, A Working-Class Bar. CHEAP BOOZE, NASTY STAFF, PRETTY GOOD FOOD.

You can't beat it for truth in advertising. And then there's this life-sized cardboard cutout just as a bonus:

Friday, July 04, 2008

Wednesday Farmer's Market, Little Italy

Troy now has a farmer's market on Wednesdays from 3-6. It's in Little Italy, behind the old Vanilla Bean bakery. It's a perfect spot for a farmer's market-- lots of parking and lots of space. There were maybe about 12 or so vendors selling everything from fresh produce-- strawberries, greens, carrots--to yarn and candy. I stopped Four Brothers, a cheesemongery, and bought some delicious, fresh haloumi.

I also got some cookies at the nearby Ridvan bakery. And this is what I did with the haloumi:
Salad. First I toasted the walnuts and the haloumi in the toaster oven. Then added olive oil, pepper, and salt. The lettuce is from my neighbors' garden. Delicious.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Chow Down at CCK

299 Central Avenue, Albany

M-Th 11-10:30 pm
Friday 11-11:30 pm
Sat. 11:30am -11:30pm
Sunday 11:30am -10 pm

CCK is a Chinese food-lover's dream come true. It is run by the same people who brought us Ocean Palace, which closed this year because of something having to do with the ownership of the building. Bring a big appetite with you: you will want to order everything.

CCK is much smaller than Ocean Palace, but the menu is just as dazzling with variety and the food just as authentic. If anything, there is a cozier vibe at CCK.

I went with my friend who also loves Chinese food and we had a feast:

This was the flounder in black bean sauce (a special, similar to the sea bass I used to get at Ocean Palace). You can get the dim sum all day, which my friend did, as they didn't have the crispy chicken he wanted (they said this particular dish would be available on Saturdays). We also tried their congee, something I had never had. This one had chicken and peanut in it. It is very simple (just a mushy rice soup basically) but delicious, something that I imagine would be supergood in the depths of winter:

The menu is mind-bogglingly huge and includes everything from your typical dishes loved by Americans (spring rolls, beef with broccoli, Lo Mein) to the more exotic: Conch with Brown Mushrooms, Jelly Fish (part of their dim sum menu), Fried Fish Head in Casserole. I will have to go back and see if their in-house menu is different from what I remember at Ocean Palace. It seemed pretty similar to me. Thank God. I was so worried when Ocean Palace closed. I know now that I will be able to make it through another winter, thanks to CCK.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

3 Great Things in Troy Right Now

This was a cup of hazelnut and blackberry cabernet gelato from Le Marche Vert. It didn't last very long after this photo was taken.

Lots of yummy things to report on in Troy.
In no particular order:

1. Ciao Bella gelato at Le Marche Vert! I'm growing quite fond of this little market; it is like a food boutique,a small shop offering gourmet foods, and you can always find something worth getting here (cheeses, some takeout prepared foods, chocolate). The Ciao Bella gelato, served in cups to go, is not to be missed. Favorite flavors: Hazelnut; Blackberry Cabernet; and Chocolate Orange.

2. Parmesan cookies at Spillin' the Beans. I bought 6 of these for just $1.25 the other day. They are so good-- great with wine, salad, or just as a snack. They are basically like a shortbread cookie but flavored with parmesan-- savory. I am addicted.

3. Oliver's Naturals rocks! I can't say this enough. I went in there the other day and got, get this: a shiitake grilled cheese sandwhich, on Ezekiel bread with some kind of wonderful pesto or garlic mayonnaise. And I got a cup of joe that had been *hand ground.* (Baby Oliver likes to crank the grinder-- he's so cute). You will feel totally nourished-- physically, spiritually, mentally-- by the food, and Diana, Adam, and Lauren make everyone feel right at home.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Since I've written about Ocean Palace before here, I thought I should tell any readers that it has closed. This post by Steve Barnes at the Times Union explains that their lease ran out:

Click here to read all the info. we have so far.

Does anyone know what CCK is? Or what it stands for?

You'd think that a restaurant wouldn't just abandon loyal customers like that-- that they'd leave a sign on the old building or issue a press release or something.

In other news, Moxie's is open again-- there is a reason to live.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ask and Ye shall Receive (Pizza)

Just after I was bellyaching in my last post about the lack of gourmet Italian, what happens? The appearance of some really good, contemporary Italian in Troy. It almost makes me believe that wishes come true if you whine long and hard enough.
Enter: Bacchus, a brick-oven pizza joint downstairs from Daisy Baker's at 33 Second Street in Troy. It's operated by the same folks who do Daisy Baker's. We've been to Bacchus already twice. This is just the kind of spot Troy needs-- casual dining with a little gourmet flair. Somewhere to have a glass of wine with your dinner on a weeknight. There are so many nights when we don't have anything planned for dinner at home, don't want to do take-out, but don't want to go anywhere fancy: and for those nights, Bacchus is the perfect solution.

The menu itself is small-ish: there is basically pizza, or pasta. On the pizza, you can go with their suggested toppings, or create your own. Toppings included artichokes, broccoli, shrimp, some meat toppings, and garlic. We've done our own pizza, both times using ricotta and extra garlic with spinach. I ordered a salad; and the second time there I tried the roasted garlic with foccaccia, which I can't say enough good things about.

The salad is simple but good, made with fresh mixed greens and a lovely oil and vinegar type dressing. It's the perfect foil for the pizza. You can order wine or beer, and the service has been friendly and helpful. They've done a great job renovating the space; it's warm and cozy with authentic brick walls (good old Troy bricks). There are little nook-like spaces with booths, or you can dine in a larger area all the way inside to the left.

I love DeFazio's, but I am a sucker for a good thin-crust pizza. If I could pick only one food to eat day in and day out, it would probably be pizza. What, actually, is there to food besides pizza? It's got all the four food groups: dough, cheese, oil, and tomato.

This pizza is thin-crust, which is great because in Troy we already have DeFazio's, where the crust is more substantial. DeFazio's crust is not deep dish, but it's certainly not thin-crust. You can never really have too much pizza in one town. As they grow, which Bacchus most certainly will because it's already proving a popular spot, I hope they add maybe more dinner-type salads along with more pizza and pasta toppings: for example, things a little more 'upscale' like goat cheese or basil. The ricotta and spinach are great, though.

Until then, though, cheers: we finally have a casual, contemporary Italian joint to call our own.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Verdile's, an old standby

Verdile's has been on my list of places to try, and we finally made it there last week. I was impressed by the spaciousness, the calm decor, and the crowd, obviously made up of long-term patrons. This is truly a family Italian restaurant. It's like an old pair of jeans: you can dress them up or down, making a meal at Verdile's into something casual or fancy, as you wish.

We were three, and although there were plenty of seats, it took them a while to seat us (although granted, we were waiting for our 3rd member for a while, too). While we waited we got to see that everyone who came in was warmly greeted and there was definitely a community feeling afoot.

We were hungry. They brought white bread. It was not warm. I was somewhat disappointed by this. We ordered a salad for two, which really covered all 3 of us nicely. Nothing unusual to report about the salad. Then came the main courses. I ordered fettucine alfredo with shrimp; my friend ordered regular fettucine alfredo. I figure, I never make anything this sinfully rich at home-- why not? If it's truly a family place, then their fettucine alfredo would show it. It was good-- I mean, how can anything with that much cream *not* be good?! The shrimp were fine, too. But again, no surprises here. The waiters wore tuxes, or tux-like outfits-- very formal. Yet there was the crumbly kind of parmesan on the table-- not real parmesan. I found this incongruous. It's sort of like having chef Boyardee on Wedgewood.

My husband got the manicotti, which I tried, and it was perfectly adequate. His portion was a normal-sized portion, whereas the fettucine gave me lunch the next day. We didn't have room for dessert. I gained 2 pounds from my fettucine. (Yes, I've been very weight-conscious lately, as I've been trying to lose some of my significant winter padding.)

Verdile's is located at 572 Second Ave., between 115 and 116th Streets, not far from the Snowman in the 'Burgh. These are their hours:
Mon-Thu 11:30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm, Sun 12pm-9pm.

Great hours. Still, I don't think I'm going back there any time soon. The food just isn't interesting enough-- which is a problem I have with so many Italian restaurants here. Where are the healthy greens, the whole wheat crust breads, the many artisanal cheeses that could easily be sourced from NY State? Obviously the vast majority of the ingredients here are shipped in, highly industrialized. The food is formulaic, heavy (tons of veal), and you might as well travel back to 1955, which frankly, I do not care to do. I do understand the sentimental connections people have to places like this, though, and it's good to know that such a standby is still thriving.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Course on food writing

There is a new course at the Arts Center of the Capital Region just for us foodophiles:

Food Writing Basics

Stir the sauce of your experience into a good serving of words. We'll study the genre and how it's developed over the years, in order to create a recipe for writing about your life at the table and stove.
Prerequisite: None

7:00 - 9:30, Wednesday, March 12 - April 2
Amy Halloran

Tuition: $145.00 Non-Members
$125.00 Members

To register contact The Arts Center of the Capital Region, 273-0552.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

It's a Family Affair: Oliver's Naturals

Troy is lucky to be garnering quite a bit of buzz lately on the food front. We've got the Troy Food Co-op coming up, promising to be a wonderful destination. If you haven't joined yet, do so now!! From what I hear, they are close to reaching their initial membership goal-- and you know you want to be one of the pioneers. In years to come, it's going to be one of those things you can boast about to your kids and grandkids: "I was one of the first to join in the Troy Food Co-op." "Really, Grandma? You are *so* hip and cool." There's Tosca, and now Le Marche Vert, the little gourmet market right next to Tosca also owned by Chef Larry Shepici. Not to mention all the old standbys: DeFazio's, First Choice Caribbean, Francesca's, Shalimar, Shake Shake Mama's, Ilium Café, Brown's Brew Pub, José Malone's.

The latest addition is Oliver's Naturals, a cozy, inviting vegetarian café on Fulton Street (#459, same block as Shalimar) run by a family: Oliver is the 8-month-old adorable baby mascot. Adam and Lauren are his also-adorable parents, and Adam's mom is the divine Diane, who makes the fabulous biscotti. Even Adam's grandma is involved sometimes making biscotti as well.

You walk in and feel like you're in your best friend's living room. You know, the best friend whose mom was cooler than yours. And you always wanted to hang out there because they had the coolest food. There isn't much seating, but there's enough. They have funky decor, like crystals scattered on the tables. And you've got to see Oliver's stuffed Jerry Garcia doll.

Go to meet Oliver; go because this is community building at its best, with a lot of locally sourced food, all organics. But you'll want to go back again and again because the food is so AWESOME.

I've been there twice already, and everyone I've talked to who's been there gets this kind of converted dazed look in their eyes when they talk about it. The food is that good. I had a cream of tomato soup with a grilled cheese when I first went there, and I'm still thinking about that soup. The grilled cheese was made with a garlic mayonnaise, and came on Ezekiel bread. The next time I went, I got a spinach salad with gorgonzola, and roasted pine nuts. It was so delicious that I forgot I was eating just a salad! It made me feel full, satisfied. It came with home-toasted pita chips. They have fair trade coffees, Maté, and last but not least, home made biscotti. The biscotti I had were dipped in dark chocolate and, get this: made with olive oil. You'd never know it because they sure tasted sinful! They also had nut and cranberry biscotti.

They just opened in late December. As of the last time I was there, their hours were Sun 9-12 and Monday- Saturday 10 am- 4 pm. It's not many places in Troy that are open Sundays for breakfast. We need this. I'm going to be going there a lot; the food is fantastic, and they just make everyone feel welcome.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Guess: which fruits and vegetables contain the most pesticides?

The Environmental Working Group has put together a chart of the worst vegetables and fruits for pesticide load. Can you guess which ones are the most harmful? What do you think: strawberries? That's what I would guess. Oranges? Nah, should be okay, all that rind...What about leafy vegetables?

Guess again. The top five worst offenders:

1 (worst)


100 (highest pesticide load)





Sweet Bell Peppers








Click here for the full list from

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Hudson Hip Factor

Scrumptious pizza that I took home from Baba Louie's:

Those are figs! And spinach. And real mozzarella!!!! This weekend we went to Hudson, where hipness seems concentrated like a shot of espresso. It was just what one needs this time of year-- a little spot of razzmatazz- and I had two sublime food experiences: one at Verdigris, a tea bar/art salon, and the other at Baba Louie's, a fantastic sit-down gourmet pizzeria that also has pasta, panini, soup, and salad.

Verdigris has a bajillion kinds of tea for sale-- greens, reds (rooibus), black teas, tisanes-- and an adorable bakery with luscious looking cake and wonderful cookies. I took home oatmeal cookies and orange shortbreads. They also sell artwork and you can sit down indoors and enjoy your tea or hot chocolate (my husband tried the hot chocolate, which was truly wonderful-- dark and luscious and subtly flavored with something smoky, like maybe vanilla). They have a lovely outdoor patio area where you can sit in nicer weather. There are lots of places in Hudson to spend the afternoon reading with a cup of something warm and tasty, and Verdigris is definitely one I'd like to go back to.

I can't imagine anyone who *wouldn't* like Baba Louie's. Ingredients are fresh, often organic (the crust is made with either organic sourdough or wheat-free spelt; mixed greens in salads are organic), toppings are imaginative but not overweening, and the crust is thin and crispy. We debated heavily between the Melanzana Cardinale pizza, which comes with eggplant, plum tomatoes, fresh mozarella, smoked gouda and pesto; or the Isabella Pizzarella, which comes with roasted sweet potatoes and parsnips (I'm a sucker for parsnips), caramelized onions, roasted garlic, mozzarella, fennel, and balsamic vinegar. We decided to go with yet a third choice, the Dolce Vita: spinach, tomato sauce, mozzarella, figs, gorgonzola, prosciutto and parmesan and "topped with rosemary infused oil" except we ordered it without the prosciutto. It sounds like a lot, but the flavors married brilliantly, and all these toppings were just that-- toppings--they didn't take over the whole pie.

This pizza was so good that I now dream about going back for another. The figs tasted like sausage, which for a vegetarian is pure heaven= having that meaty sweety fat flavor without fake 'meat' (veggie strips, texturized protein, etc). It was just a gorgeous blend of sweet and salty, picante and mild, chewy and crispy. Heaven!

With a large pizza we still had half of it to take home (and that's something to look forward to). They also offer smaller (10 inch) pizzas. They have a pasta every evening and a choice of salads: we got a salad with figs and pecans, and it was served with a lemon dressing that was out of this world.

Service was warm and prompt; and the restaurant is open and airy yet you have privacy because there are booths and tables separated by half-walls. There are candles on the tables-- you could take a date here and feel at ease. We also saw families with kids who seemed like they were loving it. What a place!

And it all left me a bit starry-eyed and wondering about Hudson. And I realized: there isn't a SINGLE place in the entire Albany area (including Troy, Schenectady, Clifton Park, etc) that is like Baba Louie's: a simple but gourmet/organic restaurant with pizzas and pastas amenable to casual but quality dining. There are tons of Italian places, but they are either family style restaurants, where you are basically served enough food to power a small football team; or they are ultra-shmancy, like Cafe Capriccio or Tosca. Nothing in between. The only middle-of-the-road casual dining category includes places like Brown's Brewpub or the Pump Station-- nothing particularly memorable about the American food (burgers, wings, fish), and gargantuan portions. I just want a decent casual European style dining place-- *not* another big deal leather-banquette necktie and chandeliers place--that satisfies. A restaurant that serves things like goat cheese and balsamic vinegar without making these ingredients seem fussy or unusual. They aren't unusual for me-- these are things I use in my kitchen all the time, along with pine nuts, fresh imported parmesan, organic greens, and fresh mozzarella. But often when I see them served in a restaurant around here, I get the impression that the chef thinks they're 'exotic' as though they've just discovered them. Newsflash: The Silver Palate cookbook came out 25 years ago! Get with the times, Albany, and take a page from Hudson's dining scene-- I think we're ready.