Lunch Break: Wegmans

So I didn’t grow up with Wegmans, and seem to be missing out in the fanatical enthusiasm for the store that most people participate in.  I went once to a location in Syracuse, while in the area for a work conference, and was less than impressed.  It was slightly confusing, seemed expensive, and the aisles were narrow.

While reporting my feedback to Mister after this visit (which was about two years ago), I was told that the particular location wasn’t the best representation of the supermarkets as a whole, and that I wasn’t really shopping for groceries so my opinion shouldn’t be fully formed.

This morning, between work appointments in New Jersey, I happened to notice a Wegmans just across the road and felt it was time to give the store another chance.

Okay, I’ll admit I kind of understand it now.060.JPG

After living in Albany for about ten years, I was totally on the supermarket fanatic bandwagon.  People up there love their supermarkets.  Trader Joes for prepared foods and snacks, Hannaford for meat, ShopRite or Price Chopper for sales.  Everyone has their favorites, their reasons, their experiences.  But we didn’t have a Wegmans, so it became the magical unicorn of folktales (just like Trader Joes was before opening in the area).  Having since relocated to Westchester, I realized that not everyone is into supermarkets in the same way.  Its fascinating that getting excited about where you buy your food is regional in such a way, but maybe that’s because the supermarkets of northern and western NY are just that much better.

Anyway, back on to my visit to Wegmans today.

For $30 I got: 2 bottles of storebrand seltzer, 1 bottle of storebrand pineapple flavored water, 1 prepared lunch from the cafe area, 1 container of mixed berries, 1 family sized bag of Snyders pretzels, 2 lemon squares from the bakery, 2 protein bars, 1 chia/fruit snack pack thing.  I’m pretty happy with the price and quality of what I got, but the true test was lunch.

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I packed everything up in the cooler bag I keep in my trunk (doesn’t everyone do this?), drove an hour back to the office, and then microwaved the prepared lunch about 2 hours later (it was refrigerated in the meantime).

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$7.00  / 580 calories.

The grilled chicken wasn’t dry (even after the microwave), the kale was super light and not soggy or over cooked, and the grilled veggies had some crunch.  There was so much flavor, and the sauce that was packaged separately was genius; I love that it wasn’t left to get all lumpy or soggy, but instead stored in its own little container.

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okay, so maybe I finally get why people like Wegmans.  It was a pretty pleasant experience and their prepared foods are definitely on point.

 

 

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Holiday Ham

This past weekend I served my first ham.  I’m training myself to use serve, since I neither cooked nor made the ham.  Its more of a reheating process isn’t it?

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I tried my best at my interpretation of an Easter meal, for Mister, mom, sister, neighbor and myself.  056.JPG

There’s something I’ve always loved about making a big deal dinner; a holiday meal, a break from the routine, something you don’t normally eat.  It feels special, and its nice to get people together even if its for no real reason at all.

 

Birthday Dinner, Bears Steakhouse

  
This glorious platter of chateaubriand was just one of the courses we were served Saturday evening at Bears Steakhouse in Duanesburg, NY. 

After hearing and reading a ton of great things about this place, I thought it would be a great way to splurge and celebrate Mister’s birthday. Reservations are a must, and a little tricky. 

I called about two weeks prior and, as mentioned in some reviews, either the mother or son will answer with a simple “hello.”  With no indication that you are in fact calling a restaurant, it can feel a bit like a speakeasy, or a trick. 

With my reservation I placed an order for the chateaubriand for two, and was asked to call back the Wednesday prior to confirm. After all this buildup, we were definitely looking forward to this culinary adventure. 

Despite what some reviewers have said, the place is incredibly easy to find if coming from Albany. It isn’t hidden, and there is a large sign. Located near major roads it was a quicker drive than we anticipated.  

 
It is in fact a home, and feels very much like one once you walk in.  

 
With seating for about 50 or so diners, the place was full and noisy; but in a warm and friendly way. 

We were served by the very friendly son of the mother and son duo, while Ma brought us the occasional drink or side. All of the servers seemed to run like a well oiled machine, delivering constants drinks and an endless stream of food. 

We started with very full glasses of Chardonnay and a basket of warm rolls (accompanied by packets of Cabot butter). There are no menus, instead the options are verbally listed off one course at a time once you’ve finished the prior course. 

For appetizers, Mister had their infamous shrimp cocktail.  

 This seemed to be the crowd favorite, and we both loved the strong dose of horseradish in the cocktail sauce. 

  I had these perfectly sour-spicy peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone, with roasted red peppers and pickled garlic. Neither were knock your socks off inventive, but they were good in a way that you could feel the tradition, family, and nostalgia invested in this place. 
We had the choice of salad or Ma’s Italian chicken vegetable soup up next, and we both went with the soup. 

  
It was really good. The glistening drops of fat decorating the broth stood as testament to the home made nature of the soup, and there was such an intense flavor that it could be stood alone without any meat or veggies. But there was pelt you of shredded chicken, greens, corn, and carrots. In all honesty, we could’ve stopped here. But then came the main course.  

 Served as a hefty platter of sliced tenderloin, carrots, and two baked potatoes we were hesitant to dive in. Almost full from the two previous courses, we each sipped a little more wine and took a few deep breaths. 

  Cooked perfectly and fork tender, this was the definition of something being like butter. It was if cutting was wholly unnecessary; the meat melted with each bite. It wasn’t until after our first slice that I had a hankering for some horseradish to balance out the buttery unctuous meat. 

We hardly made a dent in the gorgeous display, and it was graciously packed up (with the requested horseradish). 

Since it was Mister’s birthday celebration, we had to further indulge in some dessert.  

 
The coconut cream pie was the icing on this cake. The flaky crust, the pile of whipped cream; it felt like you were leaving Grandmas house after a holiday meal. We were stuffed and laden with leftovers. 

Pro tip: The next morning for breakfast I toasted some bread, slathered it with mayo and horseradish, topped with thinly sliced beef. I could eat that every morning forever. Easily. 

Swifty’s, Delmar

Its fairly fitting that today on FussyLittleBlog, the post is about a healthier burger; my own post is about an incredibly unhealthy burger brought to my attention by the same blogger.

Mister and I arrived at Swifty’s in Delmar at about 6:15pm on Friday, and could tell there was something to get excited about.  This small restaurant was filled with families and couples, lined up near the door waiting for their seats with almost aggressive anticipation. We were given a wait time of about 30 minutes, so we headed to the bar for a drink.

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We were able to wiggle our way into two seats at the bar, despite the crowd, where we had drinks (Saranac Legacy IPA) and an order of BBQ wings to get started.

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I was enthusiastic about the beers on tap, but less than excited about the soggy wings.  Though the BBQ sauce was great, there was not one crispy bite.

Once seated, we went straight for a shared order Loaded Waffle Fries, and a shared Swifty’s Buffalo Burger (salad on the side, we are trying to focus on healthier foods some of the time I promise).006

Any disappointment from the wings served at the bar dissipated, once we were presented with the Swifty’s Buffalo Burger.

The menu description reads:

Do not be intimidated by this one-of-a-kind burger! Hand breaded, deep fried crisp and golden finished in buffalo sauce

The hype was spot on.

For starters, I think Mister and I were both surprised when we were asked how we would like it cooked (medium) and it was actually delivered with a juicy red center.  How can they possibly cook a burger so well AND deep fry it?  That is a true talent.

Its crispy. Juicy. Spicy….the bun is a little sweet.  We abandoned the fries and both inhaled our halves of the burger with minimal discussion.

Next time, we’re definitely getting two.

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week: Harvest on the Hudson

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Having never been to this restaurant in Hastings on Hudson before, I was excited to see if the consistently rave reviews would carry over to their restaurant week offerings.  Upon entering, we were enveloped in the warmth of candles and low lighting.  Though the space itself is massive, with high ceilings and large windows overlooking the Hudson River, it felt warm and cozy with the combination of seating at various levels, warm colors, and low noise level.

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Our table was positioned at the corner of one of the higher floor levels.  We noticed that the seating all seems to be positioned to optimize river views.  This sounds great in theory, but once it got too dark to see out the enormous windows, the arrangement was awkward.  Regardless of that minor issue, the dining room felt like a warm embrace just as the sun was setting, comfortable and inviting.

For appetizers, I went with the Spring Asparagus Vinaigrette, while Mom chose the soup, which was a butternut squash bisque with pumpkin seeds.

The low lighting made taking pictures tricky, so bear with what dishes look like!  I wasn’t sure what to expect from the description, but my starter consisted of thick stalks of tender, chilled asparagus and a creamy dressing. According to the menu, this was soft egg tarragon dressing.  What I loved about this, was that not only was the asparagus cooked to a perfect state of crisp and tender, but that the entire plate was so perfectly seasoned.  The soup, was also balanced in a way that it was decadent while not being too heavy.

My salmon entree was just as excellent in terms of flavor, although execution could have been tweaked just a bit.  The skin, could have been just a bit more crisp, while the fish itself was more than a little over cooked.  I prefer salmon to have the almost silky fatiness when cooked just enough, while this was piece resembled the texture of dry, canned tuna.  This oversight aside, the brown butter combined with capers and golden raisins was perfection in a way that thoroughly compensated for the salmon.

025The service was so efficient, most likely based on the streamlined restaurant week menus, that we were offered the dessert menu just about the same time I finished my first glass of wine (the sauvignon blanc available by the glass, really fresh and crisp).

I had the tiramisu, while Mom went with the semifredo (in all honesty we had to google what the conceptual differences were between panna cotta and semifredo)  They were both the perfect sweetness to finish a really great menu.

We realized, once back in the car, that we had finished our dinner in just about an hour, though we didn’t feel rushed in the slightest.  We were satiated without being stuffed, which is one of my favorite benefits of restaurant week.  Though you are enjoying three courses, they are sized appropriately for the price and experience. I genuinely can say I look forward to trying this restaurant as a special date night in the future, and can’t wait to indulge in the full menu.

Coals, Bronxville

Having seen a few posts for the new pizza restaurant Coals, I was excited to give it a try. Specializing in grilled pizza with fresh toppings, I was expecting a lot of flavor to follow up on the hype.

Mom (my local dinner date of choice) and I stopped in around 6pm on Friday night.  Both the bar area and the restaurant were crowded, with a promised wait of about 10- 15 minutes.  The beer offerings were atypical, and I was excited to try something while we waited.  I asked the waitress for a lighter beer both in flavor and APV, but I can tell I confused her in that she thought I meant low- calorie.  For future reference, is there a better way to phrase this?

I ended up with a pilsner; unfortunately the combination of a loud bar and confused waitress, I’m not sure what the beer actually was to give more information.  It was pretty unremarkable, so you’re not missing too much.

The 10-15 minute wait was definitely an underestimation, though I didn’t keep track of time, we didn’t start eating until after 7. 008.JPG We shared the arugula salad: it was really good, and I was so hungry that I didn’t get a good picture of the full dish! Arugula, grilled pears, walnuts, grana padano, and sherry vinaigrette, $9.00.  My only complaint with the salad, is that I wish it had more of the stuff; you had to sort of hunt for anything other than the dressed arugula (as evident by the plates above!)

Although they are marketed as individual pizzas, we weren’t really sure how big they were; we decided to share the “Pure Bliss” instead of over ordering.  Covered with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, tomato, basil pesto, and pecorino ($16.00), we were sold.  The menu is a little confusing for pizza though, with about 9 options, only one or two seem to have radically different topping than the other.  The rest seem to have the same handful of toppings in a different order, or omitting one or two in comparison to the other options.  Nothing really jumped out as a “must-have” or unique offering.

010.JPGBy the time our pizza hit the table, I was two beers down and very hungry.  It looked great, although a lot thinner than either of us was really anticipating. We didn’t let that quell our excitement as we dug in.  While caught up in conversation, we munched away.  A few pieces in, we both commented on how soggy and limp the pizza was, surprised at the result of grilling.

Since neither of us had this style of pizza before, or had visited this restaurant previously, we didn’t really know if this was their specialty or the failure of a busy kitchen.  I decided to consult one of the waitresses that had been helping us (sidenote: there were a ton of staff, but no consistency in who was helping which table.  personally, I think this contributed to slow table turnovers).

The waitress took a look at our floppy bites of pizza and confirmed our suspicions, the pizza wasn’t cooked enough and had gotten even more soggy with the topping soaking in to the crust. She was great about getting a new pizza to our table within minutes, profusely apologizing and letting us snack on the edges of the first one while we waited.

The second one was much crispier, and the flavor was on point.  I’m just not sold on this style of pizza as a meal.  I would think that a family would near half a dozen of these just to feel somewhat satiated; more like a snack or appetizer than main course.

The crust was so thin, without any beloved chewiness or bubbles, that it seemed nearly identical to the free pizzas given out with every drink purchase at the City Beer Hall in Albany.  Those are great for what they are; free pizzas.  I’m not super sold on Coal’s pizza as a meal, but rather a great option to have with a beer while catching up with a friend.

 

Dumpling + Noodle, Bronxville

Oddly enough, my last meal before my flight to Puerto Rico, and my first meal back from the airport were both at Dumpling + Noodle in Bronxville.

Located at 26 Palmer Avenue, parking can be a little tricky during the day but there are plenty of metered spots.

On my first visit, my sister had a ramen bowl, while Mom and I shared two appetizers and an entree.

030.JPGMost importantly, can we discuss these chopsticks? I was so excited to use them, maybe I just don’t get out enough.

For appetizers, we shared the House Special Bun [filled with roast duck, scallion, cucumber, and hoisin sauce] and an order of Shrimp Summer Rolls [shrimp, lettuce, cucumer, carrot, sweet basil and rice noodles wrapped in rice paper, and served with special sauce]

The buns were so good; think perfectly flavorful meaty goodness inside the light fluffiness of wonder bread that isn’t gummy.  It was really light but in a fat/carby good way.

The summer rolls were good, but I don’t think I would order them again.  They were very fresh, light and perfectly “summer”; unfortunately they were incredibly cold, not as flavorful, and difficult to eat.  With the first bight, each portion would shred in your hand without warning.

033.JPGOn a whim, I ordered the House Special Sir-Fried Hand Made Sliced Noodle with roast pork.  The name of the dish is a mouth full, and the plate was a belly-full. I’m glad Mom and I shared this, because neither of us could have comfortably finished off this plus the appetizers.

Again, the pork was very tender and flavorful; the vegetables crisp, but the shining star on this plate was the noodles.  They’re dense and chewy in a way that leaves no doubt that they are truly hand made and sliced.035.JPG

They were so good, that I ordered them on my second visit as well.  No shame.

Mister and I visited the restaurant in our blurry, sleep deprived haze that seemed to hit us full force when we returned from vacation.  Unable to figure out how to feed ourselves, we went for full flavor and easy.

Since we were there mid-day, we went for the lunch special.  There are two options, which you can see on their website; but we both went for the $8.95 option which is a drink, salad, small dish, and entree.  Ordering was as easy as possible, with the options clearly listed on the short, special menu.

Drink: Thai Iced Tea

Small Dish: 2 Fried Dumplings, served with salad

Entree: Stir-Fried Handmade Sliced Noodle with tofu

Knowing how delicious their noodles were from last time, I was aching to try some dumplings; the other half of their namesake.  These gigantic beauties did not disappoint.  They were chewing, flavorful and fried without being greasy.

Mister started with the 2 spring rolls, and ordered the General Tao chicken.  The spring rolls were significantly smaller than the dumplings, and nothing to rave about from what I recall.  The chicken was crispy, without the mystery gristle of most takeout. Both of our portions were more than adequate for the inexpensive lunch portions.

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I think I could easily go for just the dumplings and noodles a few more times, and its nice to see a restaurant doing what they’re named after so well.