Items tagged with 'food'

A good spot to get General Tso's Chicken?

general tso's chickenSean emails:

General Tso's Chicken is a huuuuuge guilty pleasure of mine. It was a staple of my college diet. Trouble is, since moving out here to Albany, I've had a heck of a time finding somewhere that can give me a decent version, let alone a GREAT version. I was wondering if any of your readers shared my guilty pleasure and could point me in the direction of their favorite spot. I live in Albany and work in Latham so anywhere near either place is fair game.

General Tso's chicken has an interesting history (or histories), as illustrated by this short profile of the dish by Fuschia Dunlop. Its roots can be traced back to the Hunan province of China, but like a lot of Chinese food in the United States it went through some interpretation and change before becoming popular here. In this specific case, the thread runs through Taiwan, New York City, Henry Kissinger (really), and back to China. (OK, culinary history tangent over.)

Aside from Ala Shanghai and Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro, we don't hear much about individual Chinese food restaurants around the Capital Region. That is undoubtedly our fault -- we're probably not listening in the right places. So, this question is a good opportunity to maybe learn a little bit more.

Got a suggestion for Sean about a good place for General Tso's chicken -- or good Chinese restaurants in general? Please share!

photo: Evan Joshua Swigart (TheCulinaryGeek) on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Easter candy from Krause's

krause's easter candy

By Deanna Fox

I'm a little buzzed.

Sugar buzzed.

Just moments before I sat down to write this post, I subjected myself to tasting (that is, gobbling down) a selection of Easter-themed candies from Krause's Candy in Colonie.

As I rode the sugar wave, it became clear: Ditch the aisles at Big Box Store for filling holiday baskets, and make haste towards Krause's for your Easter treats.

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Ice cream stand season 2015

jims tastee freez bethlehem 2014-August

The Tastee Freez in Bethlehem is already open. (This photo's from last summer -- obviously.)

Breaking: Ice cream stand season has started.

Jim's Tastee Freez is already open. The Snowman opens later this week. And a bunch of other stands will open over the next few weeks.

Here's our annual rundown of a bunch of seasonal ice cream stands, with opening dates. In some cases the dates are TBA, or we just couldn't find out (yet). So if you can fill in some of the information in the comments, we'd very much appreciate it.

Because ice cream.

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Proposed state legislation would allow dogs in outdoor dining areas

otto through dunkin door

No matter how many times we explain the law to Otto, he just doesn't seem to understand.

In New York State it is against the law to allow a dog in a restaurant -- even (technically) on an outdoor patio. But a bill sponsored by Assembly member Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) would open the door for dogs to legally be in outdoor eating areas.

The bill includes a bunch of qualifications for allowing dogs in these areas -- here are just a few:

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Sonic's planning to open in Latham this summer

sonic indoor seating location rendering

Sonic is typically a drive-in, eat-outside type of fast food place. But as it's moved into areas of the country with colder winters, Sonic has added locations with indoor seating.

Long in circulation, now official: Sonic will be opening its first Capital Region location at 701 Troy Schenectady Rd in Latham (AKA where Route 7 intersects with Wade Road).

The fast food chain says it's planning a June opening for the location. From a press release: "In advance of the June grand opening, the site will undergo a $2 million remodel to transform it into a state-of-the-art SONIC Drive-In complete with traditional drive-in stalls, a drive-thru window and indoor dining. The location will employ close to 50 local Albany residents in a variety of jobs, including the iconic skating Carhops."

Sonic says it's planning at least 8 locations around the Capital Region over the next seven years in "Albany, Latham, Schenectady, Troy, Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park, Amsterdam and the surrounding areas."

The chain has been looking at the Albany area since at least a year ago. It's been moving into upstate New York over the last few years. It now has locations in Watertown, Rochester, Binghamton, and the Middletown/Newburgh area, with Syracuse and Buffalo in the pipeline. Last year the company said it had plans for 27 locations around upstate. Nationwide there are more 3,500 Sonics.

Sonic is fast food -- burgers, fries, hot dogs. It's one of those things that people have often mentioned they've wanted to open here. Now they can mark it off their lists. (And watch as a We Want Chick-fil-A sleeper cell activates amid the limeade-induced chaos in order to recruit new members.)

Taxable sandwiches and other foods that are taxed, unless they're not

hannaford_rotisserie_chicken_cold_in_case.jpg

These roasted chickens aren't taxed because they're cold. But if you tried to buy one as it came out of the roaster -- taxed.

Sometimes things are just hilariously (and also frustratingly) complicated.

We were thinking about that today after Jon Campbell said on Twitter of the state Department and Taxation and Finance's web page explaining that sandwiches are taxable: "Is this the best page on an NYS website? Yes. Yes it is."

One of the subheads from that page: "What is considered a sandwich."

And thus we fell into the rabbit hole of what sorts of foods are -- and are not -- taxed by New York State.

A few somewhat mind-warping examples...

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Eating in Glens Falls: 5-10-15-20

Glens Falls food composite

By Deanna Fox

Glens Falls seems to be going through a bit of a culinary renaissance, with many new eateries staking out a spot in the last few years. Chefs with regional ties have come back to assert their influence on the dining scene, and longtime favorites continue to flourish with a revitalization of the downtown area.

And with much to be done between meals -- both in town and farther afield in the nearby Adirondacks -- there's no doubt you could spend a full day in and around Glens Falls.

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Byrne Dairy ice cream sandwiches

byrne dairy ice cream sandwiches

By Deanna Fox

Though milder weather is apparently on the way, ice cream probably still isn't at the top of your mind.

But, really, any time is a good time for ice cream. And if you need justification, try this one that AOA Mary told me her dad used for wintertime ice cream while she was growing up: Eating food that's roughly the same temperature as the air around you will help offset any unpleasantries that weather or temperature might bring by creating an equilibrium between the temperature of your insides and the temperature of your outsides. (Also: Eating ice cream is, in general, an excellent distraction from what's going around you -- including the cold.)

While we have a bevy of good ice cream places in the Capital Region, Stewart's is perhaps the best known for year-round ice cream availability. But let's not overlook that other great New York State regional dairy, Byrne Dairy, which claims the hearts of Central New Yorkers. (It's the official chocolate milk of the New York State Fair.)

And it has one thing Stewart's doesn't: ice cream sandwiches.

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Scheduled for arrival: BurgerFi

burgerfi burger

Maybe the burgers are branded in case they wander off. / photo: BurgerFi FB

Upscale burger chains are (whatever the old thing was).

Announced Wednesday: The fast casual chain BurgerFi will be setting up in Latham this spring, with another location planned for Saratoga Springs.

The Capital Region locations are a joint venture between members of the Lia family (of auto group fame) and Angelo Mazzone (of his own local restaurant empire fame). Press release blurbage:

BurgerFi, short for "Burgerfication", is headquartered in North Palm Beach, FL, and currently has 58 locations throughout the country including company owned and franchised units.
BurgerFi has made its mark with never frozen, grass fed Angus beef that is free of growth hormones, chemicals and additives. Additionally, each BurgerFi store is built to reduce its carbon footprint on the environment. Tables are made from recycled Coke bottles, chairs consist of compressed wood and large fans utilize 66-percent less electricity. The chain has strict recycling programs in place for all its oil, cardboard, bottles and cans at each restaurant location. ...

In addition to an assortment of burgers, BurgerFi serves Kobe beef hot dogs, fresh cut fries with an array of toppings (salt and vinegar, parmesan cheese and herbs, BurgerFi chili, hot Cajun spices), onion rings, homemade frozen custards, craft beer and wine.

The Latham location is set for 860 New Loudon Road, and the Saratoga Springs location at 460 Broadway. Apparently other locations are also in the works.

Over at the Biz Review, Mike DeMasi talked with Angelo Mazzone about the restaurants.

So, what's the word on BurgerFi?

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The Best Dozen: Numbers

park side eatery donuts in box

Park Side Eatery had some of the most expensive donuts by price and price per weight -- but two of its donuts made it into the ultimate dozen.

By Daniel B.

Think of it like a bonus track: During his tasting tour of Capital Region donut shops, Daniel compiled a bunch of numbers about the donuts -- weights, prices, scores.

So we thought it'd be fun to share the numbers, along with a little a summary from Daniel.

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Knish at Nibble Inc

knish at nibble

A different spin on the classic: potato donut exterior, with mashed potato in the middle.

By Deanna Fox

One of the ways different cultures spread beyond their originating communities is through food. And the culture of Eastern European Jews here in the United States is no exception: foods such a bagels, pastrami, and latkes are now enjoyed by a wide range of people across different cultures.

Of course, there's a lot more to the culinary heritage of Eastern European Jews than just bagels and lox. And there are plenty of tasty dishes worth exploring and learning about. Take the knish, for example. The delightful, if perhaps less well-known, deli or street vendor snack is quick, filling, and portable.

And Nibble Inc., in Troy, is turning out some of the better examples of knish in the Capital Region.

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The Best Dozen: Ultimate Dozen

best dozen ultimate dozen composite

By Daniel B.

We've enlisted Daniel B. to survey Capital Region donut shops -- and pick his favorite donuts -- for a short series called The Best Dozen.

Donuts test our ability to make choices.

When you walk into a shop and are confronted with a selection of deliciousness, how can you possibly decide which twelve to take home? Hopefully these past three months have helped in that regard.

For this series, I've evaluated the wares from 11 different places to buy donuts throughout the Capital Region and identified my favorite dozen from each stop.

But let's say you were interested in putting together the ultimate Capital Region dozen in which you could include donuts from each of these 11 places? Where would you even begin?

You can start right there.

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Genetically modified apples move closer to production

arctic apples vs traditional apples

The top row are "Arctic" Granny Smith apples, and the bottom are traditional Granny Smith. / photo: Okanagan Specialty Fruits

Arctic apples -- the apples genetically modified so they don't brown when exposed to air -- have cleared one of their last regulatory hurdles, the US Department of Agriculture announced Friday. [Politico] [USDA]

Okanagan Specialty Fruit -- the company that developed the apples -- is projecting that small test-market quantities of its non-browning Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples will available by 2016.

The technology used to create the apples is called gene silencing. Basically what Okanagan has done is target genes in the apple that are responsible for producing an enzyme involved in apples browning, and turned those genes off. The company says it's able to silence these genes very specifically. (Here's a skeptical perspective on the precision of the targeting.)

The commercial idea here is that non-browning apples will open up more opportunities for sliced apple snacks, and reduce food waste.

As you know, New York is the second largest producer of apples in the United States. Hearst reported last fall that Arctic apples were being tested at an undisclosed location upstate. Apple growers associations, both national and here in New York, have been skeptical of the genetically modified apples, not so much because of safety concerns but because of worries about how the public will perceive the apples -- essentially, apples already have a rep for being healthy and wholesome, so why do anything that could potentially mess with that. [Hearst/TU] [Modern Farmer]

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The Best Dozen: Dunkin' Donuts

Dunkin Donuts in box

By Daniel B.

We've enlisted Daniel B. to survey Capital Region donut shops -- and pick his favorite donuts -- for a short series called The Best Dozen.

Donuts are popular. And one shop is more popular than any other in the Northeast by far. You know its name.

Whether or not America runs on the stuff is an open question. I really, really hope that's not the case.

Mostly because after eating through a dozen of these mass-produced donuts that have become the definitive versions of their respective form for most, it was a struggle to find any that I'd want to eat again.

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Good spots for Puerto Rican food?

Casa Dominicana mofongo overheadCheryl emails:

We've recently had a discussion at work about how amazing Puerto Rican food is and how hard it is to find in the capital district. Could you ask your readers for suggestions? Personally, I've been looking for a place since I came home from a visit to the island back in 2003 with real tostones. For now we make our own, but I'd LOVE to find a place to go for dinner or even get good take out.

Obviously, if there's a restaurant primarily focused on Puerto Rican food, please mention it. But we're betting there are at least a handful of restaurants that offer some Puerto Rican dishes, like the mofongo at Casa Dominicana.

Got a suggestion for Cheryl? Please share!

It's cold and snowy... so, what's cooking?

winter cooking 2015 composite

By Deanna Fox

The doldrums of winter have settled in. I've got cabin fever, and these long, freezing days are starting to wear on me.

Winter is great in that I can snuggle in front of the fire in fleece-lined leggings, ugly (but cozy) sweaters, and put whiskey in my tea with reckless abandon.

But the best way to beat winter is from the inside out. I've been wondering what other cooks in the area have been eating to get through the winter. So I asked! Here's what winter tastes like a handful of kitchens around the Capital Region.

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Éclairs at Sovrana's

two eclairs at Sovrana's in Albany

By Deanna Fox

I've learned that most good things in life come when you look beyond the expected. It is nice to be pleasantly surprised from time to time.

The same is true for food. Sovrana's has long been my favorite pizza joint in Albany, since my days in Brubacher Hall at Saint Rose. (When I wasn't studying and writing papers at Mahar's, I was doing the same at Sovrana's).

The North Lake Ave shop is a little out-of-the-way, but it's a hidden treasure -- much like the éclair that graces the cold case beneath the pizza counter.

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The Best Dozen: Nibble

best dozen nibble donuts in box

By Daniel B.

We've enlisted Daniel B. to survey Capital Region donut shops -- and pick his favorite donuts -- for a short series called The Best Dozen.

Donuts can be an adult indulgence. And I'm not even talking about Nibble's cocktail donuts in flavors like Old Fashioned, which has a whiskey glaze.

Usually I will share the remains of these weekly donut tastings with my children. And while I found that there was a lot to love about Nibble's unique form of potato donuts, my progeny were less enthusiastic. They were not sure whether to call these donatoes or potonuts, but they felt strongly that these should not be called donuts

Here's what I came to understand from that interaction. It's hard to have something called a donut be so different from something you think of as a donut. Go back and read that again, because it holds true for adults, too.

Fortunately, after eating through 12 of these hand-crafted treats, I have a much better understanding of their strengths and their weaknesses. And I have a strategy for making sure you bring home the best dozen.

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Good wine classes?

Thumbnail image for wine bottle top against tableLauren emails:

I'm looking for someone who is interested in teaching a small group (2-4) people about wine once a week for around a month. I have two small children and attending a wine class out in the world is difficult, so I'm hoping to find someone willing to come to my home and share their love and knowledge of wine. Perhaps a sommelier at a local restaurant or a wine shop employee would be willing to provide private classes, but any suggestions your readers can provide would be greatly appreciated.

The in-home part, especially for a small group, might be hard. But maybe someone has a suggestion about how to make that work -- or a class somewhere that's worth arranging for sitter. (Or maybe this is an opportunity for someone to launch Saturday afternoon parents wine club/play date.)

Got an idea for Lauren? Please share.

The Best Dozen: Hannaford

Hannaford donuts in a box

By Daniel B.

We've enlisted Daniel B. to survey Capital Region donut shops -- and pick his favorite donuts -- for a short series called The Best Dozen.

Donuts are defined by their garnishes. Yeast-raised donut shells aren't very fun on their own. They require something extra to make them come to life. It can be as simple as a dusting of sugar. But part of the joy comes from the variety of toppings and fillings that make these fried rounds of dough a sweet treat.

A professional baker might be able to detail the technical difference between glazes, icings and frostings. For the purpose of this series, glaze is a clear sugar coating; icing is a thin, dense top coat; and frosting is what you typically find on cakes.

At Hannaford, many of the donuts from their bakery appeared to be frosted and drizzled with a fudgy icing. An abundance of caution and gut instinct told me to avoid the ones with bright red icing. Past experience ruled out the specimens covered in sprinkles.

But there were still plenty left to try in the search for the best dozen, including a cro-dough.

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Tortas at El Mariachi

el_mariachi_torta_closeup.jpg

By Deanna Fox

You don't need to go south of the border for a lunchtime taste of Mexico. You just need to go a little south of Central Avenue.

Tortas are a traditional Mexican sandwich often sold on the street during lunch. Using whatever ingredients are on hand, tortas act as a quick, filling lunch that comes cheap, is easy to eat, and offers utility that is only rivaled by flavor.

The tortas -- in various interpretations -- at El Mariachi in Albany don't disappoint when it comes to a fast, hearty lunch that bring a hit of flavor to an otherwise drab, wintery workday.

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The Best Dozen: Schuyler Bakery

schuyler_bakery_donuts_in_box.jpg

By Daniel B.

We've enlisted Daniel B. to survey Capital Region donut shops -- and pick his favorite donuts -- for a short series called The Best Dozen.

Donuts are old fashioned. Sure, there are new places sprouting up all the time offering a new take on the classics, whether via new flavors or new processes. But Schuyler Bakery offers those who walk through its doors a look into the past.

The trays of donuts that sit in the window are clearly made by human hands. The shapes are not uniform and the toppings are uneven. You will not find a hibiscus-glazed donut in this Watervliet institution. What you will find are some excellent versions of the classics.

Surely, each and every donut the bakery makes has its fans. And there may be some flavors that have been family favorites for over 60 years. However, if you're stopping in for the first time -- or willing to stop in again while taking a little friendly advice -- here's how you can cobble together the best dozen.

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Drawing: Caribbean tapas party at New World Catering

New World Catering kitchen on Delaware Ave

New World Catering Kitchen on Delaware Ave.

Drawing's closed! Winner's been emailed!

New World Catering Kitchen in Albany is hosting a Pop Up Rhum and Caribbean Tapas tasting party January 22. We have a pair of tickets to the event and we're giving them away.

To enter the drawing, please answer this question in the comments:

If you could hop a plane tomorrow for any warm destination in the world, where it would it be? And why that destination?

Yeah, this is totally mid-winter fantasy. We'll pick one winner at random.

Blurbage on the tapas event at New World Catering:

We are featuring cocktails made with Rhum Clement for Martinique presented by Brendan Edwards. Ric Orlando is creating authentic tastes in grazing tapas format which will include real Conch, Calalloo with crab, oxtails, salt cod fritters and more!

The event is Thursday, January 22 from 6:30-9 pm. Tickets are $50 per person, and only 40 will be sold. Call (518) 465-3465 for tickets.

Important: All comments must be submitted by noon on Friday, January 16, 2015 to be entered in the drawing. You must answer the question to be part of the drawing. (Normal commenting guidelines apply.) One entry per person, please. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winner will be notified via email by 5 pm on Friday and must respond by noon on Monday, January 19.

New World Catering advertises on AOA.

The Best Dozen: Cider Belly

Cider Belly Albany donuts in box

By Daniel B.

We've enlisted Daniel B. to survey Capital Region donut shops -- and pick his favorite donuts -- for a short series called The Best Dozen.

For denizens of the Capital Region apple cider donuts are a seasonal rite of passage. Can fall even happen without a trip to go apple picking at your favorite orchard, fortified with a sack of freshly made apple cider donuts?

The best apple cider donuts are those made just moments before consumption. They don't travel well, and that has led some to suggest that these donuts are tied to a sense of place. And up until now, that place has always been the apple orchard.

Cider Belly has decided to turn that idea on its head by offering a fabulous array of apple cider donuts in downtown Albany. With so many to choose from, it's tempting to order one of everything.

But trust me, after eating through a box of my own, there's a better way.

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Drawing: Wine & Dine for the Arts gala tickets

Thumbnail image for wine and dine for the arts wine glasses

Drawing's closed! Winner's been emailed!

The annual Wine & Dine for the Arts food and wine festival in downtown Albany starts January 15 (next week). The multi-day event includes tastings, chefs and restaurants, seminars, and competitions for sliders, baristas, and bartenders.

We have a pair of tickets to the grand gala reception and dinner on Saturday, January 17 and we're giving them away. To enter the drawing, please answer this question in the comments:

What is your 2015 resolution for the Capital Region?

It could be big, it could be small. It could be for yourself, it could be the area generally. We'll pick one person at random.

The gala starts Saturday, January 17 at 6 pm with a reception, dinner at 7 pm. Gala tickets are $125 each. Tickets for other events at the festival are currently on sale, though some events are already sold out and others have just a few remaining.

Important: All comments must be submitted by 10 am on Saturday, January 9 10, 2015 to be entered in the drawing. You must answer the question to be part of the drawing. (Normal commenting guidelines apply.) One entry per person, please. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winner will be notified via email by 10 am on Monday and must respond by noon on Tuesday, January 13.

AOA is a media sponsor of Wine & Dine for the Arts.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

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Tulips from Spring, the swimming holes from Summer, the foliage from Fall, and a first snow from Winter!

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A good spot to get General Tso's Chicken?

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AOA7 drawing: Fort Orange General Store, The Cheese Traveler, Saratoga Sweets Candy Co.

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