Thursday, September 12, 2013

DOING DISHES: The Mussels Series, Part I of V - Garden Bistro 24

It seems my Foodie Friend I are easily confused these days, but FF is all academic and analytic and that's how she tries to keep track of stuff and make sense of things. Me, I just look like an idiot then try to run away really fast.

Now where was I. Oh, okay, we got into talking about mussels. We both really enjoy mussels when we go out to eat, sopping up some lovely broth with a hunk of bread, taking a passing sip of wine, picking out another mussel from it's shell, now slurping up the broth with a spoon, and sometimes drinking more wine until we are totally confused about just about everything. Divine!!! But we didn't know much about mussels, and neither of us had ever tried preparing them at home. We wanted to compare dishes in a few venues here in the Albany area, then cook up a batch of our own. This series is the first of what we hope will be many where we do some comparison dining and then bring it home. We call it DOING DISHES. No, we are not dishes.

I'm trying to find my phone.

Anyway what was I saying? Right - this is the first blog of four restaurants and one in-house cooking event. We'll talk about each dining experience in turn then finish up with an across the board comparison. FF made a chart for her notes. She did her homework. According to Wikipedia, where everything is true, the "...word "mussel" is most frequently used to mean the edible bivalves of the marine family Mytilidae, most of which live on exposed shores in the intertidal zone, attached by means of their strong byssal threads ("beard") to a firm substrate." There was a good article in the most recent issue of Cooks Illustrated, and too much information online, and plenty of recipes. She arrived at our first venue, Garden Bistro 24 in Colonie, NY with her pen and chart and mobile device. I took a few pictures, a few which were NOT on my phone today, which messes with my head, and just tried to wrap myself in the experience.

During dinner last night Zena was very certain that the raging thunderstorm and flashes of lightning were either Thor pissed at me again for something, or a sign that what we were about to partake of something wild and wonderful. Confused, I tried to focus on the wine list, which isn't very long but very reasonably priced. I ordered a white Bordeaux, which was really lovely - crisp but satiny. We shared a Countryside salad - crunchy soybeans, fresh sweet peas, red leaf lettuce, cheddar cheese, radishes, dressed with their homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Not salty at all, which I appreciated, since salt raises your blood pressure then you loose your temper, hence the problems lately with Thor. Right, dinner - sorry. So, we had to ask for side plates. All we each had was a napkin and a fork. There was a knife in the salad. A few minutes later our waiter offered to bring us utensils to serve the salad with, but we declined. By then we were getting into the almost minimalist environment. Paper napkins, a flower. The salad was hard to eat with just a fork. We shared the knife. The picture of the salad is NOT on my phone.

Then our mussels arrived. Our waiter was kind enough to bring us two hunks of bread and offered to bring more, but we just asked for spoons, which he forgot about but brought by later. We ordered the Mussels Frites - there are five choices and a special of the day; we chose the classic with wine and shallots. A huge thingy of frites freaked us out - they were good, a bit overdone perhaps (tasting slightly bitter as a result), but with a nice crisp exterior and still soft inside. We didn't eat too many. We ate mussels: a good count (30), all open, no broken shells, and small but tender. Only one with grit, but I blame that on the gods, Thor in particular, since I got it and not FF. Then the amazing sauce - very yellow, a few tomato bits, buttery, winey (not to be confused with whiny, which we were not). Great bread. I ordered another glass of wine and had to use my superpowers to keep the waiter from taking the glass that still had a slurp in it.

I wonder if there was saffron in the sauce. Didn't see any red floaties, but look at the color:

When Garden Bistro first opened they touted local/sustainable, but that seems to be off their marketing agenda these days. Mussels have been on their menu since they opened in 2010, and there isn't much local that you can say about PEI mussels in Albany, aye? But they ARE considered sustainable (eating at the bottom of the food chain), and the farming methods are okay for the environment, which is great. There is a lot about this menu that hasn't changed, so those of us who are easily confounded by change are happy to see our favorites still available, but we wondered if there wasn't another potato besides fries. The prices, uh, have gone up a few bucks since they opened, but I think dinner is still a deal. Salad: $9.50, Mussels $16.50, Wine $8.00/glass, plus tax and tip - a lovely dinner for just over $50.00. I couldn't figure out the bill because FF owed me three bucks for eggs but she had it together. It was a WONDERFUL meal - really GREAT mussels. Not to be confused with muscles....

Zena wrestles with a mussel at the Y
Zena, Goddess of Fire

1 comment:

LorreS said...

So if we break this down into the criteria with scores 1=bad; 2=middling; 3=good:
Number of mussels: 3
Quality: 3
Tenderness: 3
Mussels flavor: 3
Sauce flavor: 3
Combination flavor: 3
Presentation: 3
Total overall yumminess: 3
Total point = 24
Ratings: Sinker = 8 -12 points; Floater = 13-17 points; Swimmer = 18-21 points; Squirter = 22-24 points.
Garden Bistro is a complete Squirter!!!!!!! Yay!!!!!

Humbly yours,
Foodie Friend