Saturday, May 29, 2010

Trip report: the foodie itinerary version 1

My foodie friend Karen and I have been  trading food and cooking tips and ideas for years as well as going out to restaurants together for good foodie moments.

We decided to take a few afternoons to just drive around and show each other our interesting store finds in the Capital Region. My itinerary was first up and I decided to take a trip south and east from Albany.

We started at Rolf's Pork Store on Lexington Ave. in Albany. She liked the grilled bratwurst idea for the holiday weekend and I got some thickly sliced ham to order and a jar of quince preserves.  The people behind the counter have always been friendly and I got exactly the thickness I like in ham slices. Rolf's has not only sausages of all kinds, especially European styles, but lots of fresh meats that are "local" (I think of local as within 250 miles).  They have rabbit and smoked chickens as well as other uncommon fare and they cater.  They have a few plain old groceries but specialize in German imports. We put the meats in the cooler after poking into all the little corners of the store and took off for Valatie.

Next up was Golden Harvest Farms, also home to Harvest Spirits on Rt. 9, south of Albany.  There were still plenty of fresh apples, taken from their cold storage facility, as well as locally produced jams, jellies, honey, dressings and sauces and some fresh produce.  The aromas of the pies and the outstanding cider donuts were wafting through the open air market.  Around back is the distillery, complete with a copper still, barrels, barrel art and a charming host to pour tasting cups of their spirits.  Woah.  We tasted the grappa, a new line of theirs, and "spirits" is an apt term for the entrancing aura drifting up from the cup. I made little snorting gestures and my companions giggled, but I was quite happy with the extra little buzz.

I tried a bit of the pear schnapps and took away a bottle for further investigation.

With smiles on our faces  and some more foods in the cooler we headed further down Rt. 9 to 203 and turned into the village.  On the right side of the road there is a little Mexican grocery, Picante Uno, that neither of us had tried before and I added it to our itinerary to make sure we both got a chance to see it. Rumor has it that the proprietor Jackye is a very very good cook and she makes up a meal every day that she serves until it's gone.  We didn't taste during our visit, but  browsed the small shop eagerly.  There are many Goya brand products, several things that were complete mysteries to both of us and a few good finds.  I got this quite interesting canister of mole from the fridge:

I've proceded to schmeer it on several things and will soon make up some chicken smothered in it. We also got HUGE bags of tortillas for $1.25 and I got a bag of masa harina for experimentation.  Jackye caters and gave us the Picante Uno phone number because her business cards were all gone for the moment:  518 758-6631.

Karen concluded that the Mexican grocery in South Albany is more interesting, so I'll have to go and check it out.

Since I go through the village regularly I'll probably be stopping in for more tortillas if I ever run low again...

Our final stop was The Berry Farm, just a few miles shy of Chatham on Rt. 203

We browsed the greenhouses because I also wanted to pick up some plants for my little outdoor container, then we browsed the market.   There are many local cheeses, local meats and fresh organic produce as well as gourmet items of all kinds. I picked up some baby arugula and fingerling potatoes, then my outdoor plants.

It was a great trip and we came home weary but excited about our finds, anticipating eating like royalty over the holiday weekend. Next time Karen will put together the itinerary, and I'll report every little detail to you, gentle readers.