Monday, February 29, 2016

The BurgerFi IF-Burger

If I had time to make a lunch last night, if I had eaten breakfast before my all morning meeting, and if I had more sense I wouldn't be doing this. Again.

The race is on for another burger.

BUT so many burgers! So little time. I've GOT to make a decision - where to go??? Convenient? Cheap? Drive thru? What about the fries? Maybe a vegetarian option???? Crap fix or should I be a good girl??? 

I want to be a good girl but I'm really not, but if I had to be good I'd be at BurgerFi. This franchise, new to the area on Route 9 in Latham, is conveniently located near Red Robin and McDonalds. That's funny to me, and if I had a point I might make it. Anyway, it has a philosophy of real food: from the farm (as opposed to what? and I ask that as if I really wanted to know), never frozen, no microwaves, no antibiotics or hormones or heat lamps, real sugar cane sodas (as if that was really healthier!), and that's all good (if it's all true) - much better than most "fast food" places seem to offer. AND they sell craft beer and wine. Score one with Mom. 

A lovely exterior that is not red and yellow for a change
If you also want to dance, the new BurgerFi in Latham is rockin' the music pretty loud in what was a comfortably busy room during lunch hour. The menu isn't extensive but there are choices, including burgers (and all kinds of extra toppings with an upcharge each), hot dogs, chicken dogs, veggie burgers (from the farm, I hope), fries and onion rings, as well as a few fountain drinks (Coke). There's a nice patio on the side offering some shade in the summer months if you don't mind the hum of traffic and the scent of exhaust in the wind. Clean, bright, and otherwise forgetful decor. 
The inside is bright and clean and noisy
Foodie Friend enjoyed a Breakfast All Day Burger topped with maple bacon, cheese, hashbrowns, onions and an egg ($7.67) - a big bite that was both sweet and salty, juicy but not drippy: all the flavors came together nicely. Her "fresh squeezed" (really???) lemonade was very sweet and sugary; blick ($2.50). She wasn't crazy about the cookie sheet for a tray but I still think that's better than tons of paper. 
Breakfast All Day Burger was great!
I had the standard BurgerFi Burger ($5.97) - two patties with lettuce and tomatoes and BurgerFi sauce (whatever that is) - cooked right, not too salty or heavily seasoned: it tasted like a good burger. The fries were fresh, skin-on, lots of 'em (small, $3.27), and pretty good.  The shake was super sweet, sort of chocolatey and gooey like pudding ($4.47 and I didn't finish it). If I had to say, lunch was much, much better than I expected. 

Lots of fries makes the burger look small, but it wasn't. Both were very tasty.
BurgerFi is worth a try
and, if it's all true, not saying it isn't, even with a smirk
I like that they are promising better quality food on the fly
For us superheroes that need to get back to work! 

Zena, Goddess of Fire (and now Food Poet)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Doing Dishes: Caribbean Series - Casa Dominicana

I love a nice place to go when I've had a long day at work and I want some terrific comfort food. Casa Dominicana sits at Lake and Central in Albany, and it is often where I go to seek just that.

There is an extensive menu displayed on the wall of the small dining room, above the counter where one places one's order. The counter itself is at the end of a steam table holding the day's dishes, which are everyone's favorites. It's a variety of pork, chicken, ribs with standard sides of beans, rice, plantains and often other vegetables. I've slowly been tasting my way across the menu and I have found many dishes to enjoy. 

The service is friendly and welcoming, and you can ask questions about what you're seeing or what's on the rest of the menu.  There's a wide variety of soft drinks including a small variety of beers in bottles or cans. They make lemonade as well.

The dining room has about  10 tables or so, and compared to the other Caribbean spots I've visited so far this is on the larger end of the spectrum. I like to go and sit in the dining room, but there is a constant stream of takeout customers, so it's obvious that there are many who prefer takeout.  I think the food is sturdy enough to be  delicious either way.

 My favorite is the pork, which is baked covered in a high oven with water to keep the meat moist, then uncovered for the last 1/2 hour or so to crisp the skin. There's nothing like it in the typical  styles of pork served in the US and the combination of rich tender juicy pork and crispy skin is hard to beat. The sweet plantains are a true delight, cooked to that perfect carmelized coating that takes the flavor to another level.   With beans and rice and choice of another side (I can never go without plantains) the dinner plate hits the spot. 

Some days I like to spice it up with one of the hot sauces.

This is the only Caribbean place I've tried many times and never made it to the oxtail, which is on the menu.  I always look at the dishes that are there, already prepared, and before I know it, I have a beautiful plate of pork or chicken, beans, rice and plantains that I know I am going to positively love. The seasonings are mellow, and if a spicy kick is what you're after you can add as much hot sauce as you like.

LorreBob sez: go when you've got a good appetite!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Nirvana Indian Restaurant: Me vs. Buffet

Just because it's a "buffet" doesn't necessarily mean it's preceded with "all you can eat". Unless the food is really, really, really good. (:
Chicken Tandoori hot from the kitchen
A few weeks ago, with my superpowers feeling spent, the wind howling, and snow in the air, I made my way out to Nirvana Indian Restaurant, located on Western Turnpike in Altamont, to try their buffet lunch ($8.99 per person).  When I walked in the door and got a hit of those enticing smokey smells, warmth, and all that food, I knew I had to put some serious superwillpower  to work.

Too weak. One of our servers immediately brought over a sizzling plate of Chicken Tandoori, one for each of us. Charred, tender little drumsticks, nice and spicy - I was told there were more for the asking, but I heard that shiny line of warming trays calling my name and so I just smiled my thanks. Knowing there was more made it a bit easier to restrain myself before the first round.

Round One: I started light, the Sweet Bean and Pea Salad with carrots and onion was delicious, a nice surprise, crunchy and refreshing with lots of textures and color. I also tried the Red Onion, Cucumber and Tomato Salad - very simple, very oniony, black pepper, vinegar - this was a nice foil for some of the other dishes I would try later, but alone it was a bit brash.  A small mound of brown basmati rice (that was nice; white also available), along with a bit of hot tea, and I found my strength was returning, but clearly, not my resolve.
All the offerings were clearly labeled
Round Two included Chicken Malabar - a mild, slightly sweet coconut curry with potatoes, Channa Saag - a spinach and chickpea stew that was creamy and packed some heat, a bit of Lemon Pickle - ferocious and hot hot hot and very sour, with pits (good I think but I didn't know how to eat it), and Poriyal - broccoli with onion and black mustard seeds and more of those chilies, tender but not at all mushy. I usually avoid bread at buffets, but the Naan was hot and soft, waiting patiently for me at the end of the line, and so many dishes called for a way to soak up the sauce. I only took two, maybe three, I don't remember exactly. But I digress.
A nice big buffet with lots of choice - not the "usual" 
Round three:  By now the room was busy but the chafing dishes were kept stocked and it was easy to get to them without crowding, so I edged my way in to try the Dalmakhani Lentils - spicy, complex, creamy and delicious, the Goat Curry - not super tender but not tough, drenched in a rich, dark, aromatic broth, a Vegetable Makhani - very good, with an interesting tomato cream sauce, and the Gobi Mutter - cauliflower, potatoes, peas, this was a nice shift in tastes to something mild and soothing. They had Fish Sticks as one of the choices, which I thought odd - they were bland and greasy and heavily breaded (and cold - yes, I tried one), until I saw a family with two young children, and guess what the kids were eating?
Fish Sticks, Lentils, and Goat Curry. Guess which one is not like the others?
Certainly there were plenty of vegetarian options to choose from, and, overall, lots of variety and not all the "usual" choices. Also many bowls of chutneys and pickles on the lineup - the sweet mango chutney was particularly good.

A nice selection of condiments and a few simple salads to tease your palate

Now that I was surely full and then some, I tried the Rice Kheer, a classic Indian rice pudding laced with cardamom. Then I had one more bowl. I mean, after all that, why stop now!??? Yes, it was that good. But I was happyfull, content even, and feeling cozy. We talked to a few of the other patrons - everyone seemed very friendly, and the service was also very good, kind and attentive.

OK, not to gripe, but the place could really use a facelift - a bit worn down inside and out - but if business is good maybe they can make that happen.

Those little burners went out before we left, and the lids were always left up, but the buffet was clean and well tended
This time, Buffet won. And so, with a gentle burp, I look forward to my next visit to see if I have the superwillpower to beat the buffet at Nirvana. It'll be tough. It's that good.

Zena Goddess of Fire

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Creating Change With Our Forks

When you let mega corporations take over your food supply you concentrate one of the most truly essential aspects of your life into the hands of a few businesses that have profit as their primary concern, not your health.  Over the last 60 years this has become extremely clear. Is this good sense?

Vote on that with your fork at your own table every day.

In the Capital Region we have the extraordinary good fortune to be surrounded by small farms.  Many of them are run by farmers who believe that we should be eating sustainably grown food. Along with a new generation of farmer entrepreneurs, we have the kind of farmers around here who are inheriting farms that have been in their families for generations - like sometimes seven generations. They are not in it for the fly-by-night quick bucks.  Both of these kinds of farmers want to give you the very best that they can offer.

All that is to say that we are living in the middle of a world class food shed, complete with sustainably grown meats, produce and exceptional artisanal cheeses and other foods, beers and spirits. We're even seeing the comeback of hops  for our burgeoning breweries and grains for our bakeries. We can celebrate this three times every day!

In our country, 1% - 5%  food in an average household is local.  Let's make our Capital Region percentage a whole lot higher than that, because we can. And we can have an awesomely pleasurable time while we go about doing it. And the best part is that we can develop a food community that is strong and healthy while we support our local farmers with our business.

Once we get to know our farmers we may even want to persuade our legislators to help them out, rather than try to force them to comply with regulations that are designed for mega corporations rather than small businesses.  Let your farmer inform you about this.

Inspiration for this post provided by:

REAL. FOOD. Summit - Conversations with farmers and the people that are making real food really happen.January 29, 2016, Athens, New York.


Dignitaries, farmers, gadabouts and businesswomen, Even famous journalists! Oh My!
We met in the new warehouse of Field Goods, Athens, New York.