Friday, September 30, 2011

Another Birthday

This time it was my sister-in-law. We loaded up 2 families and headed over to Bombers in Schenectady to try the place out and drink a really big, free margarita. I really wanted to like Bombers, but the meal was just so-so. I had the Red Stripe jerk pork burrito. It was OK, but nothing special. It was a bigger version of a chain restaurant burrito. And the chips that came with it were cold and greasy. They might have been better warm from the fryer but I would argue Moe's has better chips than these. They don't skimp on the booze. The margarita was strong, we probably should have stirred it up a little more. Very nice presentation with a birthday sparkler going when it hits the table.

The space was nice. Service was very friendly. And they didn't balk at a large party including 4 kids early on a Friday night. We were gone before 7. Like I said, I really wanted to like the restaurant but was a bit underwhelmed by the food. I could definitely see how eating here as a college student late at night would be fantastic. Near UCONN, there was a legendary breakfast spot was great at 3 in the morning, but a little less impressive at 9. I'm sure at some point I will give it another try.

And I learned that my daughter 5 year old doesn't know how to hold her booze.

I'm kidding, Mom. She had a soda. My mother stops by from time to time. Happy Birthday Manders...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cooking From Lucky Peach

I picked up a subscription to Lucky Peach, a new quarterly food magazine. I enjoyed the interviews and learned quite a bit about Ramen. There were a few things that made me laugh and a few others that I thought were very creative. A recipe written in 3 haikus - that's just creative and funny. And the recipe sounds pretty tasty too.

Near the back of the issue, there was a section on sous vide eggs that included a temperature chart describing how the textures of the yolk and white change as the temperature increases. I had some farmer's market eggs, a new egg cooking technique to try and I had to shoot for a 62.5 degrees Celsius egg. That is Chef Andoni Aduriz's favorite temperature.

You get a big pot, fill it with water. Put a bowl you can boil in it to keep the eggs off the bottom of the pot. A smaller boil-able bowl to keep the eggs in place goes inside the bigger bowl. Use some thermometers and the temperature control to keep the water temperature as close to 62.5 degrees C. Place the eggs in the water and keep an eye on the temperature for 40 minutes. Then you're ready to eat.

And here you have two slow poached eggs on top of mixed greens that were tossed with a quick vinaigrette and a little bit of bacon. It was pretty tasty. The only thing I'd change would be to bring the eggs closer to room temperature before cooking. Dinner is served.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You Say It's Your Birthday

It's my birthday too, yeah!

It's Google's birthday today too.

Google is just a kid at 13. Meatloaf gets to blow out some candles today too. I think he's 64. I fall in the middle. I turned 40 today. I started exercising a few months ago with the hopes of weighing less when this day came. And it kind of worked. Dr. Oz would be so proud.

When I began exercising, I weighed 243.4 pounds on the scale in the bedroom. This morning, I weighed in at 220.4 pounds. I've been hanging at about 221 pounds for awhile now. Not bad. I am little surprised and slightly impressed with myself. Although I'll probably weigh more tomorrow because I hade pizza from Defazzio's for dinner. Totally worth it.

I was tempted to go after one of Matt Baumgartner's T-shirts, but fought the urge. Maybe next year...

Happy Birthday, eat birdseed. Happy birthday to you!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Travel for Work

I spent some time in Buffalo and Rochester this week for work. One of the highlights of the trip was roaming around the industrial park behind the Holiday Inn on Jefferson Road outside Rochester. I had just finished working out in the hotel gym and decided to go for a walk to cool down. I found a really nice health food store. It kind of reminded me of the Honest Weight Co-Op. Wide variety of products and a pretty big gluten free section. Plus, the place just felt nice. Never met her, but I bet Lori is good people.

Then, in the building right next door was a restaurant supply store. The woman working there was very nice. Her son started the business with a friend and they have just moved to this location. Nice selection of restaurant tools, take out containers, and even an nice grinder that caught my eye. The picture was taken with my phone. I should have gotten closer.

Just off to the side of the restaurant supply store there was a new Korean restaurant. It looked interesting but I didn't have a chance to check it out. But across the small parking area to the left of the Korean restaurant was a place called Palmer's.

The back part of the building wasn't open to the public. It looked like a higher end Sysco with food for restaurants. The front part was open to the public and it is a cross between a gourmet market and catering company. Want to buy good seafood and bring it home to cook, no problem. Want to pick out the same seafood and have it cooked for you, no problem. They had a nice seating area or I guess you could get it to go.

They also had a counter where you could get your choice of steaks grilled to order, all kinds of sides and some good looking desserts. To use older Albany references to describe Palmer's, I'd say it was Deleah's crossed with Cowan & Lobel.

It was a nice walk. After I cleaned up, I headed back to Palmer's to pick up a bag of lump charcoal I had never heard of before. Probably the nicest industrial park I have ever visited, although I 'm not really a connoisseur of industrial parks. And good to know that a unique set of stores can exist right next to the "Everytown, USA" generic strip of box stores that is Jefferson Road.

We went out to dinner at a little Italian restaurant the clerk at the hotel recommended. The food wasn't very good. The place was probably great 20 years ago when "Noni" and "Papa" were at the helm. We asked if there was a movie theater nearby. The waitress directed us to a theater less than a mile away. It turned out to be a second run movie theater. Which was perfect because they were showing Super 8 and I had wanted to see it. The theater is a nicer version of the Cine-10 (I miss that place) with $2 tickets. On Monday's, if you bring you family of three of more, the ticket price is 75 cents. My partner in crime and I saw a Wednesday night showing of Super 8 with 3 other people. Not sure how it can stay in business, but I hope it does.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Large Book Stores Are Running Themselves Out of Business

There's a book I want. I looked it up online at Barnes and Noble because I have a gift certificate for the store. Online the price is $27 with tax and free shipping included. I work near Colonie Center so I figured I'd walk over there at lunchtime and pick the book up. I find it on the shelf in the food section (where else?) and there are about 5 copies. I look it over, read the flaps and start to walk over to the sales counter when the price on the book catches my eye. It's $40 in the store. I ask the guy behind the counter about the price difference and he says, "We can't do an online price."

"But it's your online price," I responded.

"Yeah, we can't do online prices," was the reply.

So the book went back onto the shelf and I came home and ordered it from them online. If this is the case with all of the books that cost $25 or more, I don't see how a store like that will ever be anything more than a place to go and browse. This is probably why Borders is gone from the area. They probably couldn't compete with themselves either.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza Project #9

The Wrath of Pate

Last month, the project was "Binding." I misread the challenge and made something out of the same chapter and the cummy pate should have been more of a mousseline. My bad. This month's challenge was to make a pate. Whoops. I took the mistake as an opportunity to try again. Since I really didn't like the flavor components of the first pate, I decided to look for a different recipe. I went through all the cookbooks I have and read some more recipes online. For my second attempt at pate, I decided to follow Jacques Pepin's recipe in La Technique. For those of you keeping score at home, Pate Maison is Technique 112 which includes flashbacks to earlier techniques including 2, 23 and 39 (garlic prep, preparing lard leaves, and aspic). If you haven't had the chance to flip through La Technique, it is a pretty cool read.

Making the aspic and pate were going on at the same time. When I make chicken stock in the crock pot, I usually plug it in in the garage or on the deck. I usually end up making it at night and my wife doesn't like the smell when she is going to bed. If it is being made on the stove or in the oven, I just have her close the door and she's a little out of luck. Sorry. This time, when I was at the Asian Market on Central to get pork liver (I haven't seen it anywhere else in Albany) there were packages of chicken feet. Really cheap. I put the feet in the crockpot, covered them with water and set it on high when I came home from work (about 5:15). A little while later I added a few carrots, some celery and an onion.

Next up was thinly slicing fatback to line a loaf pan. That didn't go so well. The knives are getting sharpened soon. I hadn't realized how dull they were. I didn't have a large piece of fatback so I cut lots of small pieces and lined the pan. I also cut extra to place on top. Once that was in the fridge, the pate was put on hold for tooth brushing and stories.

I tried to get a mise together and counter space was a little lacking because the kitchen has been permanently trashed for about 2 months. Spices when into a coffee grinder for a whirl. It worked pretty well.

I weighed out the pork, fat (yes there is more fat), and liver. I minced the pork in a food processor. The minced the fat but it was still a little frozen and didn't mince as well as I had hoped. The liver gets liquified next. All of this meat handling made pictures a little hard to snap. So here is everything - pork, pork fat, liver, egg, wine, garlic, shallot and spices (bay, thyme, pepper and salt) - all mushed together.

And covered with some more fat in the loaf pan.

 The loaf gets covered with foil and the roasting pan gets filled with water. Then into the oven it goes.

A little while before the pate came out of the oven, I took the stock out of the crock pot. It looked and smelled good. The feet were a little weird to look at.

The idea is that you pour some of the aspic (gelled stock) into the loaf pan. The fat floats out over the side and gets replaces with aspic that gels when cooled. It was a good theory, but didn't actually work. I think some of the problem was that the fat back lining the pan was cut too thick.

It all went in the fridge to chill for a a day or two. And the results...a significant improvement of the first effort but not quite there yet. Next time I'd run the fat through the grinder instead of the food processor. I had never chopped meat in the processor and I'd try to get the pork a little coarser. But the flavor is there. Kids didn't like, but what do they know anyhow?

And the rest of the aspic/stock is in the freezer for future sauces and stews. I used a cup of it as a sauce for some cavatelli with sausage and broccoli last night. Check out the level of gelatin.