Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Merci Buckets, Chez Mike!

In the desert there was a strip mall, with all the same stores they all have, and lo, a star shone brightly and there, tucked along the back, was a miracle, and it was Chez Mike. 

And we beheld our sandwiches and were grateful. 

Onion had the Burger ($10.99), which was cooked exactly right, served on a perfectly toasted bun that held up well to the filling - cheese AND bacon contrasting with those cold tomato slices and lettuce - he bowed his head and ate it all. The fries were amazing - seasoned with rosemary and sea salt but not with a heavy hand, these were crispy but not hard on the outside and perfectly squishy inside like a saved soul. 
Burger, an 8 oz Angus with Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Cheddar, Rosemary & Sea Salt Fries
Red enjoyed a Chicken Salad BLT ($11.99), commenting that she liked the dark toast, the tender meat, and a great taste of bacon. She also enjoyed those fries, much to my dismay, as it made it very very hard to steal them, but that would have been a sin, so I asked first. 

Chicken Salad BLT, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and those amazing fries on her side of the plate
Pony was graced by a Roast Turkey sandwich ($10.99) and loved her crunchy bread and moist turkey, wishing perhaps for a bit more red onion and cranberry mayo, or a little bit more taste to the rosemary bread, but it was excellent. Best part of her meal were the sweet potato fries on the side - dark, crispy on the outside, soft inside, not too sweet, lightly salted - she said these were the best she'd ever had. Reverently, we each tried them and heard the angels singing.

Roast Turkey with Cranberry Mayo, Red Onion, Lettuce on Toasted Rosemary Bread
Just to be difficult, which I do very well, thank you, so no, I'm not going to heaven, but that's another discussion, I ordered the Kale Caesar without the kale because I'm sick of kale ($11.99) - which they were happy to do, subbing Romaine instead (our server pointed out that they are asked to do this almost every day). It was topped with not enough smoked chicken, some crunchy little croutons, and a few roasted tomatoes (which I liked, but not with the salad). Still, it was a generous portion and the lettuce was fresh and crisp. However, the dressing needs salvation: it was very heavy and tasted like mayo - a few extra lemon wedges, salt, and pepper helped but it was pretty bland. But no worries, the angels are watching over you. 

This is not a Caesar Salad, in case you didn't notice. It is the cookies they comped us at the end. Tasty!
The dessert menu has a nice selection, all house made, and it changes daily, including homemade ice cream at $2/scoop (with flavors like pecan & cinnamon!). Some are VERY interesting, like the Ricotta Mousse with Fresh Strawberries and Black Pepper - but I was full and happy so I will have to wait to be reborn or return the next time to dig into those goodies.

Good food, comfortable booths, linen napkins, heavy tableware, fresh flowers, and cheerful service all made for a lovely meal. Truly we are blessed by their attention to detail. 

Merci buckets, Mike - lunch today was tres bon!!!

Low light, cheery setting, tin ceilings, Hudson River themed artwork

Bar area tucked away in back looking a little like a lost soul

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Attack of the Giant Killer Zucchini


They are out - in the thousands, possibly millions - in the supermarket, at the farmstands, perhaps hiding in your own garden. Your neighbors will place them on your doorstep in the middle of the night while you sleep. Parents will hide them in sauce. They could be riding next to you on the bus right now, and you are oblivious to the danger:  TOO MANY ZUCCHINI.

They are sleeping right now, but could jump up at any time

Tactic #1: Get 'em while they're young. They can get to be a meter in length and then they are not only extremely dangerous if they attack, but they don't taste as good - kind of pulpy and seedy and watery. Under 10 inches and I think you are safe.

Tactic #2: Look for smooth, bright shiny skins and good color. Aliens are also green and white and yellow, so look closely before you buy, as these could also attack you at night when you try to sneak something sweet from the fridge.

Tactic #3: Store them in breathable plastic bags (like the ones they have in the produce section) or in paper so they don't get slimy. A slimy zucchini is borderline zombie, so take care.

Tactic #4: Eat them. This is THE BEST WAY to control the population.  They are good cooked up with tomatoes and onions and some fresh herbs, in ratatouille, in breads or muffins, grilled with a bit of herb vinaigrette, or raw with dips or in salads. There are lots of recipes out in cyberspace where the zucchini hazard is less risky. When in doubt, chop and freeze with a "take that"!!!!  You win.

I like my Mom's casserole, which is more of a souffle - light but rich, a great main with a green side, and nice for breakfast too. There are lots of great recipes out there - what are yours???

Subdued and delicious


2 10" yellow and green zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced about 1/4" thick
4 large eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh green pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions

Steam the zucchini until just tender and set aside. Meanwhile whisk eggs in a large bowl, then whisk in mayo and parm and salt and pepper. Gently fold in zucchini, green pepper and scallions. Transfer to an 8" casserole dish sprayed first with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes or until top is a light golden brown.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Made in the Shade: The Iron Gate Cafe

The weather is lovely, and what better time to sit outside and enjoy your meal.
Gated courtyard

But Zena, Goddess of Fire, isn't all that impressed with what most places offer in terms of plein air dining around the Capital Region.

I do not want to sit in the blazing sun - I'm already too hot for that. I don't want there to be so much wind that paper goods and umbrellas go flying every which way. But I don't want bugs, either. And please, please, not on the sidewalk - too dirty and noisy plus you have to deal with the random zombie - you know the kind that lurch past and ask for handouts before puking on your shoes. Oh, and please, spare me the view of a parking lot.
Take out menu

The Iron Gate Cafe, a little breakfast and lunch spot, has indoor seating, and take away, but if you can, take your meal outside in the courtyard patio - it's shaded, set back from the road, intimate, quiet, and truly peaceful.
The courtyard for patio dining

The food is first rate - I enjoyed a Caesar Salad with Chicken ($9.50) - lots of fresh greens cut just the right size, a rich garlickly dressing, and a generous portion of warm meat. It was a little bit dry, and heavily spiced with oregano (making me think that they are prepping it for more than one dish), but nothing a bit of freshly squeezed lemon and extra dressing couldn't fix. Jaguar had a Turkey Terrific sandwich - a large ciabatta roll with sliced turkey, arugula, and bacon made extra wonderful with a horseradish sauce ($8.95). This is a big bite - half made a good lunch. Very nice.
Turkey Terrific sandwich. Good chips. 

Generous serving of Chicken Caesar Salad

Nothing fancy - wholesome food with daily specials, friendly service, nice setting. Iron Gate is a delight.

What are your favorite outdoor dining spots in the area???  I'd love to put a list together for our readers.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

P.S. They also do brunch Saturday and Sunday 9:00 to 3:00.  Lots of eggs also salads and alkeehawl.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Heaven is a Deli

Zena, Goddess of Fire wishes to report that heaven is actually located at 1197 Central Avenue, not far from the Moon and the Stars. Yes, heaven is a deli, known locally as Pellegrino's Importing.
Plenty of parking out front
The sandwiches are made by angels offering one on one service, and these sandwiches are divine. These are prepared to order while you wait, nice and fresh. Try the Italian Mix - spicy and rich. These guys will also save you time while they lift your soul by allowing you to order ahead. In addition to sandwiches Pellegrino's also offers sliced meats and cheeses by the pound. They do party platters, catering, and now have a dinner menu to go. Boars Head is their brand of choice - they know quality, and if it isn't, there's no place in Pellegrino's or heaven for it, and that includes sliced ham.

Boar's Head prevails. 
 The deli has lots of dry beans and lentils, bins of olives, prepared salads and lovely imported cheeses. The French and Greek feta cheeses are both creamy and zingy - the French is a bit less expensive - both are good in spinach pie. I always get my Parm there, grated, and they know to package up the rinds for me so I can use it in soups (they have extras under the counter if you want more). Their house made summer sausage is fabulous, and only available for a short time - loaded with garlic - try some on the grill! I bought a couple of pounds for the July 4th holiday and the whole neighborhood could smell my cooking - delicious straight up - no condiments required. Insert harp music here.
Bins of olives and dried beans, fresh salads, and home made sausage
The grocery section is well stocked with cured meats, frozen raviolis, canned tomatoes, pastas, coffee, anchovies, roasted red peppers, and other delights. There's a whole long shelf of just olive oil in small bottles and large cans. The Greek EVOO is a nice light green color, perfect for salads. Also fresh filo in the fridge (not the dried up stuff you find in the supermarkets). Yes, it may be heaven but they will help you cook like a demon if that's what you like.
Lots of tomato products and oils to choose from
Many types of dried pastas available. A sunny space to sit and eat with a few tables outside.
If you have questions about what you're buying, just ask one of the guys - they are knowledgeable and always happy to help. Those aren't aprons they're wearing, they're wings.

Hunks of cheese and cured meats in the fridges
xxx Zena

(Proscuitto!!!  Bless you...)