Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sunday Suppers at Fin

I love Sundays. I just spent the whole stupid week working like crazy and overdoing the working out early early in the day and worrying and doing yard work and chores and fixing things and paying bills and making lists and eating over the sink and making phone calls to BOA who screwed up again with my billing and they put me on hold forever, as did St. Peters, going to doctors and taking tests and being poked and prodded, then, late into the night, running around protecting the innocent from the forces of evil.

Boys oh boys, do I need something GOOD come Sunday.

So this past weekend I made reservations at Fin - Your Fishmonger, in Guilderland, NY, for Sunday Supper. This was only the second offering of their new once-a-month prix fixe with Executive Chef Gabriel Pollow. Chef put together a creative five courser focused on using sustainable fish, giving up to 12 lucky diners a chance to eat well, try new things, meet one another, relax, and feel special. And we did! We ate well, and we laughed and talked and talked about food with others at the table and sipped our BYO wines and enjoyed the bright afternoon sun streaming in the window for almost three full hours.

Our meal started with cold glasses of strawberry and basil soda - light, refreshing, not too sweet. I'm not big on bubbles but it was truly delicious. Warm garlic and sage scented rolls were passed with dishes of salted herby lemony compound butter. These yeasty rolls were really soft and slightly sweet and practically addictive they were so good.

Chef introduced himself and the meal to come. The first course was Gazpacho, not too spicy (Foodie Friend thought it slightly meh), fresh and cold with some crunch and a bit of finely chopped apple and red onion and not too much salt. Considering it isn't tomato season, this was a bit of an odd beginning in some ways, but it DID taste like the promise of summer in a cup. I loved the lime crema for both the added flavor and presentation.

Next was my favorite dish of the event - Shrimp Ceviche - with homemade blue corn tortillas that were super light and crunchy, even with a bit of liquid in the bottom of the bowl. There was a perfect balance of flavors and textures: shrimp, avocado, and cucumber topped with a bit of olive oil and peppery microgreens. Bright and delightful.

Course three was a Quinoa Salad topped with pan seared grouper. Fin, determining that the original red snapper on the menu wasn't sustainable, substituted the grouper. The keen-wah had a lovely bit of finely chopped veg in there, some shallots and mustard and a bit of olive oil, with a good mound of perfectly cooked crispy string beans on top. This dish was beautiful but Cookie and I somehow didn't care much for the fish. It was a bit metallic tasting, a bit bland, too peppery maybe. I don't generally like grouper, sometimes finding it a bit fishy and a bit greasy, although the sauce did help. This was a generous serving and pretty good, but no "wow" "pow" "zip" "bang" superhero punch to it, if you know what I mean.

Then came a Risotto made with a saffron steelhead salmon stock and vegetables, finished with cream and parmesan. Sorry to say I didn't like it at all. It wasn't served nearly hot enough, I thought it was too salty, and it wasn't creamy like a classic risotto (and actually kinda greasy). OK, also, it was very fishy, and even tasted a bit weird, like plastic or something. No one else at the table really liked this dish very much either. It didn't help at this point we were already quite full and the dish was VERY rich, so we mostly pushed this one aside.

The last course was a wonderful Bizcocho, a dense almond cake with almond cream and berries. Simple and sweet and perfectly considered, it was a great way to wrap up. I wasn't going to eat the whole thing, but I did.

It was a real honor to enjoy such a lovely meal in this humble, neighborly, simple environment. I felt like a part of something, somehow, like family Sunday dinner away from home with new friends. The space was bright and light and and comfortable. I loved the slow, relaxed pace and I left feeling full and happy, ready to take on another night of protecting the innocent and another Monday and another workweek ahead. Chef did a great job. I look forward to returning in the future, but I'll give the rest of you a chance to try it first before I hog another spot.

Dinner was $50/person plus tax and tip.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

Friday, April 17, 2015

Heavenly Tasting: Cheese and Beer at City Beer Hall

Upstairs at the City Beer Hall is a great place to put some tables and chairs so that people can hang out and taste beers and cheese.  The huge windows and the view into the room below add a sense of expansiveness that sets a lovely scene for some great flavors. On a recent non-frozen evening a group of avid tasters tasted to their hearts' content.

We each were given a program for the tasting so we didn't have to take extensive notes. The beers and cheese were these, which I would highly recommend for paired tastings you should do at home:
Grimm Color Field farmhouse ale wth Perail de Brebis
Brouwerij Bavik Petrus Red Ale with Tome Rebelais
Birrificio del Ducato Chrysopolis with Saulnois Reserve
Dirrificio Montegioco Fumigant with Alchese Blauwe

Eventually the assembled plates  of two cheeses were delivered upstairs and the two beers were poured for everyone.

Our hosts from The Cheese Traveler and City Beer Hall each gave some background and we proceeded to share our experiences as we cheerfully explored some of the delights of basic food and drink.

The beers and cheeeses held one surprise after another.

And oh my.  Flavor was the topic, the stuff and the conversation of the evening. Flavor profiles had been carefully analyzed and matched so that the unfolding of complementary complex flavors, although in really just a few bits of food, was mesmerizing through the evening.

The second pairing of two brought the tasting to the four beers and four cheeses, which is a really good amount if one is to get the gist of each without covering up anything, rushing or spacing out.  While truly a tasting and not a meal, it was a great way to satisfy the senses without ending up too full or bored.

There was plenty of time to regale each other over our subjective experiences both at this table and at many others in past years. The time was used to slowly try each tidbit, but also to wait to clear one combination of flavors in order to fully experience the next. The beers and cheese were paired, but there were also little condiments to allow everyone to mix up their own tastes expand the range of what was happening.

The low lighting allowed the darkness from outside to eventually envelop the room and as we savored the strongest and most mind blowing flavors of the evening the room grew quiet and people said their goodbyes.

It was a satisfying way to explore new and traditional flavors and to share insights and opinions with convivial fellow guests.  I hope this tasting series will be ongoing for a long time to come.

Lorre Bob sez check out both the beers and the cheese and if you can taste them together all the better.

Friday, April 3, 2015

There's No Hole in My Doughnut - Nibble, Inc.

I have to say upfront that I have a love-hate relationship with the doughnuts at Nibble, Inc. in Troy. 

I love the shop, which is on the corner of 5th and Broadway, near Finnbar's, where apparently both of the main crew at Nibble did some time. It's tastefully appointed and has a gorgeous view of the street on two sides.  One cannot ask for more while having doughnuts and coffee.  

I LOVE the flavors, which I feel are works of culinary art.  I mean seriously yum. No, I mean you must go and try these extraordinary doughnuts.

They are based on potato flour, and that makes them different from the other doughnuts out there, so try not to go with the expectation that these are going to be just your common doughnut that you've had all your life.  Plus the fillings in their signature doughnuts are superbly crafted, and unlike any of the drek that ends up in most average doughnuts. For these fillings alone you should get yourself to the shop and see what I mean. I had the  local lemon and blackberry cassis signature style just to get started, and my recommendation is that you either go with several people so you can get a good sampling or get a dozen for the office and slice them up so you can get a variety of flavors.

And now to what broke my heart and  makes me want to rave - so I will. The most obvious difficulty is that they're too blinking big to bite. It's like trying to eat one of those 4 inch high hamburger sandwiches. In other words, I ended up wanting to throw them across the room, except they were too delicious. I tried to bite the lemon and it is tough and so I merely dragged it off the doughnut and slapped myself in the face with it while the unbelievably delicious lemon sauce (I can't call it curd) proceeded to run down my face and deposit itself on my shirt. I won't sing the whole litany of problems I had actually ingesting this fascinatingly delicious bit of fried dough. It would be long. Suffice it to say this is not the sort of eating experience I want to have. Do I REALLY have to get out a fork to eat a doughnut?  Especially in a place that just has disposable utensils and no real crockery? A doughnut that requires a plastic fork?  I'm not happy with it.  

When I asked for a re-usable cup one that obviously was fished out of an obscure location and hastily washed was produced.  I was suspicious.

I will go back because it's like a candle flame for a moth, but I'm taking my stainless steel knife and fork, my own real plate so that I can actually use the knife and fork, and my own mug for the coffee. I like them enough to do that kind of work to eat them.

Get their full menu and more at the site: http://www.nibbleinc.com/