Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Zena is Smokin' at the Warehouse Grill and BBQ

Zena, Goddess of Fire, loves smoke. But you knew that.

The aromas as you walk in the door are amazing - spice, garlic, burnt wood, and meat. Both visits I've made this month I was greeted at the door and promptly seated. The service staff was always very patient taking our orders (as we all tend to talk too much and not look at the menus), plus it can be hard to decide. Should I order something small, or pig out on a platter???

Bright open bar area
There are salads, yes, but even the strongest superhero would be hard pressed to skip the pulled pork in favor of lettuce. The first time through I tried the Warehouse Wings ($10), asking for them "extra crispy" with mild sauce (thanks, Prof. Fussy), and a simple side salad with ranch dressing (heck, it's BBQ territory - ranch, of course! - $5). All the dressings are made in-house, which really shows. The wings were very spicy, could have been crisper, but were big and juicy and delicious. I loved the house BBQ sauce - complex, not "Franks", sticky but not sweet. But the best part was the absolutely delicious, decadent, thick rich blue cheese dip - normally I don't get into this stuff except to taste it. This time, I think I licked the cup clean. Oh, yes, and I ate all my veggies.
Small side salad ($5/ a bit pricey) - fresh!

Hot wings are "hot". Mild are spicy enough, even for me
Big Sis got into a Southern Hash entree ($14) - pulled pork AND brisket, sweet peppers, onion and mashed topped with two sunny-side up eggs. She put a few extra dollops of the house BBQ sauce on at the table and proceeded to eat the whole thing. I was impressed. She has great potential, this sibling: I had to take half of mine home for later.
House BBQ and a mustard sauce table side

Southern Hash - a big plate, gluten free...

Girls night out, two birthdays to celebrate! The second visit I did the Pulled Pork Platter ($16), choosing as my two sides coleslaw and fries (which I asked for unseasoned). I got through half (agin') of that pile of delicious, tender, smokey pig. Delicious sauce - a subtle kick, just a bit sweet but not over the top. The slaw was nice, a bit underseasoned, but fresh, and the fries were good (the seasoned ones that Wonder Woman ordered were very good also, but definitely salty). Oh, and a big hunk o' cornbread comes with every entree - tender, sweet, not crumbly at all - most of which I ate the next day. The platters are generous meals for the price.
That's a pile of pig! The collard greens, bottom right, were very meaty...
TBB asked for a plain burger - no bacon, no cheese, no bun ($10). They were happy to oblige and she got herself a perfectly cooked patty with a nice char. Her collards were offered gratis (she didn't realize she was getting fries and the waitress kindly, and quickly, offered an alternative). These were VERY meaty - beef brisket flavored veg. Cookie thought she could eat a big bowl of it and make that a meal. M&M also loved the Southern Hash, and WW enjoyed her New Porker ($10), a brioche roll piled high with pulled pork and slaw (the slaw made this bite great!).
Just a burger is NOT on the menu but available for the asking

New Porker - pulled pork with slaw on a brioche bun
The only downer was the Pulled Chicken ($15) - white meat chunks, not shredded, with bits of gristle in almost every bite, and the veg of the day side green beans were almost room temp. Stretch's sweet potato fries, however, were amazing - thick, yet crispy on the outside and perfectly tender throughout, lightly salted - nice.
The chicken wasn't a big hit but those sweet potato fries were amazing
They've got a nice beer menu - lots on tap ($7 or $8/pint). I love the Chatham Hop Crop IPA, the De Brabandere white tasted of exotica and not too sour, and the New Belgium Pumpkick Ale was great - definitely not too pumpkinny. They offer a small variety of wines by the glass, including Josh Carr "Josh" Cabernet - a thoughtful selection for sure.

Faux warehouse is noisy
It's noisy with that faux warehouse design and decor, but at least there wasn't also loud music to contend with - just plenty of happy voices and conversation all around. Kid friendly, good quality grub, great service, affordable, NOT A CHAIN, nearby, with large booths as well as tables and a large bar area. Best BBQ I've had in the Capital Region to date. This place is SMOKIN!!!

Zena, Goddess of Fire

Smokin' hot tip: No reservations accepted but if you call ahead they will put you on the call list and you get to jump to the front of the line. xxx

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

An Apple a Day: Indian Ladder Farms

I don't do donuts (except in rental cars).

OK I take that back. If the line wasn't so long I think I would have LOVED to snarf one down. The air last weekend out at Indian Ladder Farms in nearby Altamont smelled delicious: sugar and cinnamon and hot oil and grass and damp and earth and a bit of fall spice. BigSis and I each took a deep breath, parked the Zenamobile across the street in the Pumpkin Picking lot, and started to explore.

Take out line for cider donuts. A picnic area is up the hill on the right.

It was only11:00 a.m. and already there were cars coming at the place in both directions, parked in the lots or on the grass.  I generally hate crowds, noisy kids make me cringe, as do doting parents, but still it was pretty exciting, like a fair almost, with bins and bins of squashes and apples and gourds and the band setting up for live music and BBQ at 12:30.  No zombies to worry about, so I could just relax.

Lots of pumpkins - you can also pick your own
The store was fun to poke around in, but the checkout line was pretty long. TIP: Go into the adjacent barn area with apples and dairy stuff and pay the cashier there instead.

Lunch bombed. We waited almost 15 minutes at the sit-down dining area, the Yellow Rock Cafe, and nothing was moving. There were folks all crammed around the entry way, yet no one came to the door to organize those waiting, and so we said forget it. Maybe next time.....

OOOOH but I DO love apples, and it IS apple season. Indian Ladder has a load of varieties to choose from. I bought a basket of McCouns - crisp, not too tart, white flesh, juicy (like me) - the best that fall has to offer for eating out of hand. BigSis got a small basket of Honey Crisp. We both crunched into one as we wandered back to the car.

Yes, the farm was overrun with visitors - Indian Ladder is THE place for many families to return to year after year, and ILF has tried to keep up, including a new brewery and a tasting room (very cool!), and there are plenty of staff on hand to help out. Right now they are doing U-pick pumpkins and raspberries, as well as apples. Loud and lively.
U-Pick Raspberries
So much for finding peace in the country. But it's still a lovely place, and not far from the big city (of Albany).

xxx Zena, Goddess of Fire, Devourer of McCouns

The squashes were $1.29 a pound, which I thought was expensive - we WERE at the farm, FYI...

Monday, October 3, 2016

Get Outta Town! - Downtown Bistro, Coxsackie

Downtown Coxsackie (pronounced "Cook-saki"): why would you go there???  

The first time Data invited me down I whined. I didn't want to drive ALL THE WAY to Coxsackie on a "school night", so we made plans for a mid-afternoon meal last Sunday. 

She wanted me to find out for myself what makes this small town so enchanting.

A riverside park on the Hudson River
At first glance I'm like "this is terribly quaint" [boring], and "Who built all those nice houses on Mansion Street?" [heh, probably old and drafty, too], and "what's a sturgeon?" [A: it's where caviar comes from]. I walked around the riverfront park and took in the mighty Hudson, and, being a river rat myself, it filled me with joy and wonder because it really was beautiful. Coxsackie looks like Hudson did 15 years ago: run down and quiet, but it appears that it, too, is being bought up and gentrified and repaired, with a gallery and a few artsy folks drifting about. Oh, and now they have Downtown Bistro.  
Cute little downtown storefronts I hope they preserve

Stone Mocha IPA and some mysterious clear stuff I didn't drink but I should have
They had about 8 or so beers on tap, none from NY (tsk tsk) but I enjoyed a Stone Mocha IPA ($6) - aromas of coffee and chocolate, not sweet at all - I loved it! The space is classy yet casual, with a few "regulars" at the bar (I'm assuming it's the only place in town to go watch the game and have a brew, at least for now). There's a back patio with a water view although it was a bit too breezy the day I visited so we sat inside on wide comfy stools at a high top. The vibe was neighborhood, laid back, but still elegant in its way. Really nice staff, young but very professional.  

Bar area, high tops with wide comfortable seating, including a foot rest

There's lots of variety on the menu - a nice list of starters, crispy pizzas, mussels, mac n' cheese, pasta, roast pork, amazing desserts - American traditional, for the most part, with a few twists. I think they are doing some high end, creative things for your dollars, even when it comes to wings (blood orange and habanero!? - wow!). Most dishes are about $20 and under, steaks more, burgers (including bison and duck) start at $10 - very reasonable prices too. The entrees all start with salad - this one was simply dressed with a house vinaigrette.
Data enjoyed one of the special entrees, Lavender Balsamic Glazed Chicken ($18), topped with prosciutto and a brown sugar glaze. Although there was hardly even a floral scent to the chicken, it was still tasty, definitely sweet, perfectly cooked white breast meat with a load of spinach hiding underneath.   

And turned - Lavender Balsamic Glazed Chicken
I went small with an app that was really a lunch portion - the Spinach Roll ($9) - a generous serving of garlicky greens wrapped in fresh pasta and baked, topped with red sauce and shaved parm. Delicious, sublime, simple -  though the pasta had dried out more than it should have, I still ate and genuinely enjoyed every bite. 

I didn't share more than a bite, it was so good!
Data finished up with a Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Cake ($6) - creamy, rich, with a touch of salt, perfectly balanced flavors that melt in your mouth. 

Dessert - who can go wrong with PB and chocolate???

There were quite a few folks calling ahead and picking up to-go dinners, as well as assorted pastry and a few high-end grocery items, so DB is doing what it can to give the community what it needs, including trivia night, if you are game!!!
A few staples in case you forgot your truffle oil

Downtown Bistro is only 30 minutes from downtown Albany so really, get outta town: buzz down, explore, take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

Friday, September 23, 2016

Vegging Out: The Schenectady Greenmarket

After another night of zombies then beer then the gym, I need to do something peaceful and virtuous. Maybe a nice salad and a walk among mortals.

Yes, it's time to go to the farmers market! There are so many in the Capital Region - Delmar, Troy, Saratoga, Empire State Plaza, and Colonie Crossings, to name a few. But just like where I buy my cat food and gas and wine and prescription drugs and T.P. it usually comes down to proximity and convenience. So for me, Sunday is Schenectady Greenmarket day, downtown by City Hall.
Not too big, not too small, and very friendly

I tried the CSA route - too much food, too many tied up Tuesday's, not always stuff you want, and quite frankly, I missed being out in the community. I missed the bugs and the dogs and the smell of the grill and babies in strollers and live music and face painting and bumping into friends. But most of all I missed seeing what so many dedicated local farmers and entrepreneurs are growing and pickling and bottling and crafting - honey, candles, soaps, fresh milk, dips, cheeses, meat, crackers, spice mixes, peanut butter - you name it. Oh, yes, and then there are the fruits and veggies.

Maple products from Uncle Pat (with a smile, on the left)

Assembly Coffee Roasters - my their coffee smells GOOD!

My friend Stretch loves Ole McDonalds Cinnamon Honey

The chef's mom proudly displaying products of a local startup
So fresh, so much variety, so much food! I have a tendency to overdo it, but I usually have a game plan in mind before I go about what I'm eating in the week to come. I like that the fruits and veggies don't decompose the minute you get them home.

Amazing tomatoes!

Eggplants everywhere. Red cooked up some Caponata. 

Fresh pears and apples are coming into season


Interacting with the vendors is always a delight. They are so proud of their products and will tell you where things come from and how they got started and who the chef is and where the farm is and about their animals and the weather these days.

Enjoying the vendors

Painted Goat Farm has GREAT cheese!

A few tips:

  • Bring cash. Small bills and quarters are appreciated. Some vendors do accept cards.
  • Street parking is plentiful, but you can also park in the lot at the corner of Clinton and Franklin, despite what the signs say.
  • Wander around first, have a cup of excellent coffee, look at what's available, ask about pricing, listen to the band, sing along if you wish.
  • Try something new on your way - a hand cream, maybe some hummus or a cookie. Buy yourself a treat. 
  • Now go back, once you've ditched your coffee cup, and fill your re-useable bag with fresh stuff. This week there were lots of eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. 
  • Oh, and leave the dog at home - not allowed at this market, although they are welcome at others.
Zena, Goddess of Fire

PS: After buying all that lovely fresh food I went to the pub for wings and a beer. So much for virtue!

We knew most of the words to "Four Strong Winds"

Friday, September 9, 2016

Eat Great Food: Capital City Gastropub

Q: What's kinda hip with a touch of grunge, still a bit classy, practical, decidedly local and pretty tasty?

A: HA! No, not me, silly - it's the Capital City Gastropub!!!
Homey, neighborhood feel with sidewalk seating in summer
OK, Albany has many many pubs and bars and taverns and saloons and roadhouses and taprooms and ale houses and speakeasies and gin mills and public houses and beer joints and watering holes and cocktail lounges and canteens and beer gardens and other dives. Take your pick. Some will say the food is good if you know what to order, but from where I fly I never expect much from the kitchen. I've even scoffed at those reviews in the TU because really? Who cares? It's just a pub, right? The food always fails in some way, and we expect that.

Level 1 is the usual burgers, pizza, mac n' cheese, bangers, french fries, wings always, sometimes a bowl of chili or nachos with yellow cheese goo. Ordering the salad is not recommended. $

Level 2 may also have panini and wraps, steaks, onion rings, cobb salad, shepherd's pie, quesadillas, and, of course, the flatbread of the day,  the decor is usually better, and so is the price, but the food will likely be just as uninspiring, and you may not get as much. $$

Level 3 will also offer you burgers, and pizza, mac n' cheese, bangers, and fries, but they will take your mind off another pint and back looking at your plate, wondering how something so simple could be so sublime and delicious. $$$ and worth every cent. A.K.A. Gastropub!!!

Decor includes hard chairs and it's noisy but streamlined and chic

Jaguar enjoyed a glass of Vino Bianco, Planeta La Segreta Bianco from Sicily ($8) - served up cold, nice and dry, not too fruity. I joined her with a Bell's Best Brown from Comstock, MI ($6) that was slightly sweet and very smooth. There's about eight beers in bottles or cans, a dozen or so on tap, and a pretty substantial list of whiskeys and ryes and bourbons to choose from - very nice.
My first beer and some water just to pretend I also drink water at the pub

We were both in the mood for a burger. She ordered up a Kilcoyne Farms Burger ($15), with house made pickles and roasted garlic ailoi, adding blue cheese and caramelized onions to the bun ($2.50). OMG this was perfectly medium rare, piled high, juicy, delicious, beefy even, and the fries were some of the best ever - skin on, crispy, but mushy inside, tasted like, um, POTATOES.
A big, juicy, beefy burger perfectly cooked medium rare

I went for the Double Pork Burger ($18), with two tender, lightly spiced patties, gruyere, housemade zucchini pickles, onion and Russian dressing. It was almost 3" high - messy, drippy, divinely decadently good - but the bun easily disintegrated. I ate the first half without putting it down and ate the rest with a fork and knife. Actually, it didn't need the bun so I might skip that next time.

Double Pork Burger - juicy piggy decadence

Gastropub - buying local, cooking up fresh, taking care of details, inventive, creative even. It's a pleasure to have a pint (OK, I admit, two) and some really great food at a pub, in my jeans and old shirt on a Saturday night.

Get down to the Capital City Gastropub - you deserve it.

xxx Zena, Goddess of Fire