Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hanger Steak at Justin's

Justin's hanger steak special was delicious last night, complemented by a martini - theirs happen to be ginormous.

It was an easy dish: potatoes, vegetables and steak with mushrooms, but quite deliciously done. The flavor was enhanced by the perfect searing and the texture was substantial but tender. It was a perfect supper for after a heady movie, with a good sound track and not too much noise in the bar.

Justin's bar casual atmosphere makes it a comfy hangout and eatery. I almost always prefer it to the Savoy dining room.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fish tacos

After finding wild caught smelts in the Berkshire Coop over in Great Barrington I was a very happy but a little bit overwhelmed camper. I dunked them in milk, then cornmeal and fried up a mess that was waaaay more than I could handle that evening. So what can one do with this fresh water, light flavored fish? Once I browsed the fridge the tortillas and salsa told me: tacos.

Above is the iron skillet with chopped onions and garlic sauteed until the onions are transparent and slightly camelized. I boned the smelts and gently broke the fillets away. Not wanting to overpower the light flavors of the smelts I didn't put all the spices I would put into a beef taco mix. I gently rested the smelts on the onions and garlic and turned the heat way down while putting on the cover. The smelts are basically steamed that way, and no more breakage from handling.

A nice medium spicy salsa and a dreamy steamed white corn tortilla and voila!

This taco could be done a zillion different ways, but I thought for an improvization based on leftovers it was not bad. *munch*

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dumpling Breakfast

One of my favorite breakfasts is dumplings from Lee's grocery. Go in the front door and go straight to the wall and there's a little freezer which has a variety of them. My favorites are these, which often have meats, seafoods and vegetables in very tasty combinations. The bags are clear with red lettering, and they're the most expensive. I leave it to you to find your own favorite by tasting your way through all the different kinds.

The sauce is always fun to concoct. This version has dark soy, mirin, ginger and garlic.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pork with cherries

I had a container of Ranier dried cherries that I'd been using since summer when I got it at Hawthorne Valley Farm. So when it came time to also cook the pork chop I defrosted yesterday, the logical dish was pork with cherries.

I always improvise this sauce loosely based on the idea of cherries, onion and garlic. The liquids vary from wine to vinegar to stock. This version is dried cherries, chopped onion, chopped garlic and the Seyval blanc I got to cook risotto last week. I added a rock salt from Ibiza and ground red peppercorns. I cooked the wine down a couple times to get a flavorful syrup in the sauce. Then I thought about the ginger and tossed it in - ooo la la!

Sides were papaya squash and fried cabbage.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lunch at Londonderry

I was in time for the last open table at this charming shopping plaza eatery as the lunch rush was at peak. I had bought my new cell phone so I was ready to play with it and have a nice lunch. And that was good, because I waited for a very long time to order.

I have eaten there for many years and somehow never tried the club sandwiches, so in the spirit of tasting my way through the menu I tried the beef, with the cranberry mayo. I like wheat bread, so that was my choice out of a lineup that could please anyone. It was difficult to choose between the apricot mustard and the cranberry mayo from the dressings choices, but the cheerful wait staff person helped me make the decision. I added a ginger ale to drink and wished that local restaurants would go for a little bit more than the watered down Canada Dry drek.

As you can see, PLENTY of meat. It was beautifully done beef, moist and tender and with very good flavor. There was so much meat that the tiny schmear of mayo was undetectable, so I asked for more when the wait staff person checked to see if all was well. It almost overpowered the bacon and made the sandwich difficult to handle. I waited for almost a half hour, figured out most of my phone functionality, and when the staff person asked if I just didn't have any appetite she was abashed that she had forgotten the mayo. By that time the lunch rush had evaporated so that she was able to concentrate more on my needs, and I was ready to go back to the phone store and ask more questions.

In my experience Londonderry has always had sort of weird wait staff, so if you can look beyond that it's a good place to take a break or get a tasty meal. It's tucked away in a corner of Stuyvesant Plaza, so in the perfect spot to provide a respite from shopping or errands.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Matzoh ball soup

I nailed it last night:

chicken from Hawthorne Valley Farm,
carrots from Fox Creek Farm
Onions from Fox Creek Farm
garlic from Fox Creek Farm

I've often tried to over-do matzoh ball soup with too many flavors and last night I tried to copy a version I encountered in a Philadelphia deli.

Yum ola!

Three carrots and a medium onion chopped into good soup-sized pieces and sauteed until tender
add 2 cloves of garlic, whole
48oz stock
approximately half a cooked chicken. I baked mine with all the skin on it a couple days ago, and used a bit of the fat and almost all the gel because I recently read that all the gelatinous things are good for you! Chop it into bite sized pieces.

8-10 small matzoh balls

salt and pepper to taste

simmer long enough to properly cook the matzoh balls and warm your body and soul

Makes four generous bowls of soup

Friday, October 31, 2008


I generally avoide wraps - it's an emotional thing having to do with the often bitter wrap taste and iccky texture. So last night I took a culinary risk and had probably about the fourth wrap I've ever eaten at the Daily Grind Cafe on Lark Street.

It was ham, swiss, apple, lettuce with honey mustard on a garlic herb wrap. Yum! It was balanced in flavor and made a very good light supper with chips on the side.

I must remember to start taking photos.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Whitefish salad

Eats is the only place I've seen smoked whitefish for sale in Albany, so I procured myself half a fish in order to make whitefish salad recently.

My recipe is based on what I believe I tasted when I first got some of the whitefish salad at the deli counter.

Smoked Whitefish
red onion
softened cream cheese
sweet [or simply not dill] pickle

When I made it this time the pickle I used was pickled pearl onions. - Yum

You must REALLY LIKE fish to make sandwiches from smoked whitefish salad. Serve it as a canape at a party or a little snack on a good cracker as you and a friend drink cocktails while you prepare dinner and you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bomber's - eeeww

It was snowing, I was exhausted and I started baking a chicken just at the time when I wanted to be eating dinner yesterday. So I set the chicken at 300F degrees and went to Bomber's for cheap eats.

I've been trying to taste my way through the menu just to see what they do well and what they do badly.

Last night was mixed. I ordered the Strongbow cider, which is unfailingly lovely.

I was wishy washy about what to order, but settled on the pulled pork BBQ plate. What came was, um,less than lovely. And it didn't have anything to do with cheap eats. It had to do with appalingly bad taste.

The BBQ pork is good. It's tender, seasoned well and has that sweet spicy taste that I like very much. However, it was covered over with an extra dollop of cold sauce with SOUR CREAM on top of it. Now who in their right mind puts sour cream on BBQ? It was absolutely wretched. And anyone with half a neuron firing lets the customer slather on more BBQ sauce as needed. On this plate, the extra sauce just made it sort of sickeningly sweet and more like BBQ soup. Alongside this disaster was unseasoned rice, black beans and totally naked shredded lettuce. When I say unseasoned, I mean no salt, no pepper,no onion powder, nada. Once the aluminum plate gets cold, which is in about a minute, and it starts to cool down the beans and rice they just suck. The plate was horrid.

My advice to Bomber's -- rescue this plate and put it at the top of your popular list:

1. provide a couple tomato slices or ANYTHING with the lettuce to make a salad;
2. provide salad dressing
3. season the rice and beans or provide salsa;
4. lose the sour cream or contain it on the side;
5. put the extra BBQ sauce on the side;
6. re-think the plate altogether and provide baked beans instead of the wretched black beans and rice.

Bomber's has many great cheap eats dishes, but this ain't one of them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

EATS - Stuyvesant Plaza

I shopped at EATS Gourmet Marketplace in Stuyvesant Plaza last night, a shop that has evoked mixed feelings in me since it opened awhile back. It makes me hope that someday we'll get something like The Cheese Connection back again, but EATS is definitely not "it".

I looked for their fabulous smoked whitefish, and there was none in the case. I ordered some great corned beef and gruyere, thinking sandwiches and French onion soup.

There were single eggs for sale at $.35, and I got a half dozen. The staff person told me that they are from the owner's chickens and I liked being able to pick my own half dozen. Now I'm thinking omelets and egg and cheese sandwiches. But there's no bread. There are tons of toney crackers, but no bread.

I've always been a bit mystified about why they don't have bread. I'll have to ask someday.