Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Mingle is a somewhat recent addition to Albany's culinary scene.  It's on Delaware Ave, has its own off-street parking lot, and possibly the best key lime tart of anywhere on earth, period.  And now that I'm rich (my pension refund from 3 years' work in Japan came back!), I can eat there.

I met a gal pal there for a relaxed dinner on a Tuesday.  They give you a big bottle of water sans ice at the table, which is clutch - because dammit, I hate ice cubes and I get thirsty.  No free bread or banchan (complimentary side dishes characteristic of Korean dining establishments) but eh.

Beverage-wise, we both opted for "alcoholic."  My friend got an $8.00 strawberry basil cocktail thing that looked like imitation crab meat floating in dirty period water with algae but tasted fresh and sweet.  I went with Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Cream Stout, which my boyfriend purchased for my dad for Father's Day.  Great beer, great price - 12 oz. bottle was only $5.00!

We started off with a starter of Korean tacos.  2 for $10 is hardly a steal, but rich people like me don't care. Given a choice of chicken or beef, we chose beef, and I firmly believe this was the correct decision.  Said beef was awesome BBQ-style galbi.  Tender and perfectly marinated.  The shredded green onions, cabbage, and kimchi were all welcome - nothing seemed like it was thrown on last minute, which is sometimes the case with "fusion" food.  Cute flatware, too!

I'd read on Mingle's website about a summer dinner special: pan seared halibut with a Fuji apple fruit salsa, "Korean potatoes" and mixed vegetables.  I obviously had to go there.  And I was SO PLEASED with what I got!  Everything was perfectly cooked - pan searing fish to perfection is a challenge, and the vegetables were refreshingly NOT overseasoned or oversalted, retaining their original veggie flavors.  The "Korean potatoes" turned out to be what I call "Japanese sweet potatoes" and Japanese people call 薩摩芋 (satsumaimo). 

I'm really picky and skeptical about Korean entrees at restaurants that upcharge as dramatically as Mingle.  $20 for bibimbap?!  $22 for chap chae?!  It's times like these when all I can think about is paying the equivalent of under $10 USD for a huge amount of barbecued meat and unlimited banchan in Seoul.  Or $7 for a big plate of chap chae at the Korean church open house down the road.  My dining companion ordered the chap chae and it was good, but not $22 good, and was drowned to suffocation in soy sauce.  She liked it, so everyone was a winner!

Like good girls, we neatly boxed half of our entrees so we'd have room for dessert.  There were three options: carrot cake with lemon marscapone, mocha chocolate mouse with raspberry, and a key lime tart.  There was some coin flipping as initially neither of us were floored by the options, and key lime won.  It was unremarkable looking and seemed gelatinous and weird at first glance, but OH GOD LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING.  The texture was creamy and pleasant, and the flavor was intense and complex - so many feelings.  We split one piece and even that was pushing it - the sweetness was comparable to baklava.  I think there was honey in the crust, too.


Not like I really care about this most of the time, but the service was great.  Far from smothering/overly attentive, yet helpful, polite and friendly.  We deviated from our usual "miserly" tipping tendencies (one of 224759245729452 reasons why I love this particular girlfriend) and left a 20% or greater gratuity for our server.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bacon and eggs, dear

I didn't make any of this, but you betcha I ate it.  Unfortunately this morning I was not able to take on all 10 pieces of bacon myself, but another day we can work on making that a reality. 

Coming soon...WING WARS, in which I solemnly vow to undo several weeks of weight loss progress and champion a minimum of 25 wings in a condensed time frame.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Banana Cream

I have never actually owned a food processor or anything like one, so smoothies and purées have been a fairly foreign concept formerly reserved for those weird people who make vegetable shakes instead of eating salads.  Silly me - I've been missing out! 

Certainly anyone with half a brain has realized that tossing frozen sliced bananas and milk of some sort - soy and almond milk also work - into a food processor results in something richer and thicker than ice cream, yet way lower in fat, calories and sugar.  If you're feeling extra randy, you can throw in brownie or cookie pieces or pour the banana cream on top of another dessert.  On a snowy evening when warm blankets and Eskimo kisses are in order, nothing rounds out the sweetness of the moment quite like magic guilt-free banana cream.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Breaking the fast at Illium Cafe

At Illium Café, you can get the ILL-est breakfast in Troy!  harharhar!
 Illium Café, located on Broadway Ave in downtown Troy's "Monument Square," is a very necessary stop for breakfast (and lunch, but that's its own post) lovers who happen to be in the area.  Unlike the (goddamn awesome but deadly) $4 all-you-can-eat pancake special at Denny's, the offerings in Illium's grand yet adorably homey dining room are human-sized.  Prices are reasonable too, and the service is quick and friendly.

I went with the less-is-more "Parisian Omelette" for my early afternoon breakfast choice.  It turned out to be pretty rich, with generous helpings of egg, cheese, ham and buttery toast - and not so much greenery, which came in the form of cantaloupe and spinach.  My companion sprung for one of the black board specials - some kind of monstrous eggs Benedict concoction with asparagus, lump crab meat, pesto, goat cheese, and about twenty other artfully chosen ingredients.  Fortunately my food envy was only "mild" - I probably would have thrown up bright green slop out both holes if I'd had all that (oh-so-rich and wonderful) Hollandaise sauce.

"Parisian" omelette: Spinach, ham, gruyere, and chevre.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles

I hate New York City but there is so much to eat there.  After gorging myself on fork-tender chicken and fried plantains at Pio Pio and getting good and goozy on New Year's Eve, I clearly needed something substantial and greasy.  The no-brainer solution to the eternal question of "hung over" is "Chinese food" - but when faced with hundreds of options in New York, it gets tricky.  Luckily in our group of seven someone had an idea that we could run with.

Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, located on 1 Doyer Street (map here). New York Magazine did a decent review of the place.  As a large-ish group we were seated right by the door and the table was drafty, but who's really going to fuss about that when you have six kinds of noodles to choose from?  The eponymous hand-pulled noodle is probably the most exciting kind to watch (there's an open kitchen - super cool to watch the chef banging away at huge slabs of Play-Doh-like noodle in the making), but the knife-pulled noodle served pan-fried on a plate was definitely the right choice for me:


As you can plainly see, knife-pulled noodles are HUGE - which makes for an incredibly satisfying mouth-texture that will satisfy any noodle craving. They also don't skimp on the vegetables, and portion sizes while monstrous are not impossible - I cleaned my plate and felt stuffed but not SICK afterward, which I think is the magic key to curing a hangover. 

(My face is normally about 50% this size.)

If it wasn't already obvious, I think everyone needs Tasty Hand (Knife) Pulled Noodles. The water on the table is probably diluted piss or Coors Light, but aside from that you can expect great food, prompt service (very polite by Chinaman standards), and excellent value for money.

Thank you Joanna Clark for the photos!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

La Banquise

I know the French are the sworn enemy and antithetical satans of all that it means to be a proud American, but after a visit to La Banquise in Montréal, I can safely say I would rather be fat than be a patriot (This is of course delightfully ironic because there are no fat people in Montréal, a moneyed city populated with swarthy mustache-bearers, impossibly fit birds in size 2 jeans, and lots of bums).

La Banquise is touristy and not particularly easy on the eyes, with yellow walls, hokey wall art and a plastic-coated menu designed to keep drunken projectile vomit at bay.  It's open 24h and ideally serves to coat the stomach before or after a night of binge drinking.  But who cares? With options like "Obélix" (Jewish style smoked meat), "T-Rex" (ground beef, pepperoni, bacon and hot dog sausage) and "Taquise" (guacamole, sour cream and tomatoes), you'll thoroughly enjoy shortening your lifespan with a steaming pile of what is possibly the most unhealthy culinary creation in North America.

Poutine at its basest level, without any fancy add-ons, is a pile of french fries covered in thick brown gravy and fresh cheese curds.  It was born in the Quebecois countryside sometime after 1950, and has since become a staple in Canadian fast-food and diner-style eateries.  Tell anyone you're visiting Montréal and they will tell you to eat poutine, and will probably recommend La Banquise.

I have eaten a good selection of terrible things in my time, from a whole package of Tim Tams dunked in peanut butter to an entire pizza by myself, but my poutine Taquise from La Banquise is possibly the most obscene thing I have ever put into my body.  From the moment of fork implantation down to the last gasp for air, it was all greasy, fatty guilt.  Just a heaping pile of salty carbs topped with fat. 

It's no wonder I haven't had a bowel movement in seven days.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Old Thunder

"If you were going to own a bar or restaurant, what would you name it and why?"

Without blinking, I'd open a Moby Dick themed brew pub (the kind that serves food) and call it "Old Thunder."

In third grade when I was allowed to check out classics from the middle school library, I went right for the white whale and read it cover to cover. Of course I didn't understand 99% of the historical/mythical references and the vocabulary was over my head, but I wanted it all and I loved the story, which was simplified a bit in the weird Danish kiddie movie "Samson and Sally". I finally got around to rereading Moby Dick just last year, devouring it in less than a week during down time at work. The experience was aurally enhanced by Ahab, whose (in my opinion) finest moment is the track "Old Thunder."

Old Thunder the pub will visually be an homage to the whaling industry of the 19th century, with as many genuine artifacts as all the collectors of the world can muster up. Harpoons, anchors, scrimshaw, whale-oil lamps, ambergris in glass bottles, flaying knives, bits of rope, all that stuff.

The menu shall be a fantastic thumbing of the nose at Sea Shepherd, PETA, and vegetarians the world over. From whale bacon to whale tail hors d'oeuvres, whale steak, and whale burgers, every edible item will contain whale meat harvested legally by Japanese or Icelandic hunters. Even nonwhale items will be cooked, fried, baked or sautéed in whale product, so no one can possibly be safe from the innocuous-sounding "Sperm Fried Squid..."

As for drinks, Old Thunder brews and bottles its own beers on the premises. Each stout, hefeweizen and lager will be named after a human character from the book. Daggoo will appropriately be the darkest porter, while Queequeg shall be a robust and universally enjoyed brown ale. Fedallah, being a Persian and all, will probably contain strong hints of exotic spices. Custom cocktails will be named after nonhuman characters/places...with the infamous house special, the "Moby Dick," containing both absinthe and whale blood.

Old Thunder's target demographic will ideally be a brilliant mix of smart weirdos, metalheads, book nerds, and loners. The staff will be a collection of wild cards from patternless and diverse backgrounds. Purveyors of snobbery, jerks, and assholes will be gassed and thrown into a vast mass grave - the call of the wretched sea.