Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Hearing last week that the new Japanica Grill in Troy was serving actual ramen, K and I didn't want to wait around and see what others had to say about this place--we wanted to just get in there and try it for ourselves.
Here's a not-so-secret bit of information: we both really like ramen. Many people may associate ramen with poor students living off their pocket change packages of Top Ramen. But real ramen can be a delicious treat, the varieties of broth capturing a wide range of flavors, the noodles at once both delicate and chewy. We've tried some of the great ramen available in little shops in New York City, and can even attest to the quality of some packaged ramen available in Asian groceries and even some supermarkets.
So the ramen is what drew us into Japanica Grill. We expected others to be checking out the new restaurant, but when we visited last week for dinner, there were no other diners present (another pair came in while we ate). The location is tucked away on 6th Avenue on the ground level of the new City Station multi-development project, which has a few additional storefronts but mostly will serve as graduate housing for RPI students.
Maybe the construction on 6th Ave. is hurting business for now at Japanica, but I'm afraid that's not the only problem we noticed on our initial visit. While they are doing a few things well, there are problems we encountered that make our return doubtful, and, I think, the overall success of the restaurant questionable.
I may have no business dispensing advice on how to make a restaurant successful, but I can't help it: a place like Japanica Grill has so much potential, but I'm afraid it's all going to be squandered. So here are some thoughts we had after our initial meal there and how things can be improved.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Considering my post on the Kale Chips from Trader Joe's has--by far--brought the most hits to my blog, I figured I should do a few more of these posts. Not that I need to be gorging on snacks all the time, but I do like that TJ's comes out with some new, interesting items every once in a while, and these snacks aren't always that bad for you.
But can these snacks be the complete package, with good flavor and good value on top of the not-terrible nutritional content?
I tried Trader Joe's Dried Kimchi and their "Trader Joe's Contemplates Inner Peas" to find out--and came to the conclusion that one of these snacks satisfies more than the other.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
|Harvard Bridge into Cambridge|
While it was fun exploring the many corners of Chinatown during our recent trip to Boston, circumstance dictated that we move out of that comfort zone for a few other meals during our trip. That's not a bad thing, even if it meant not getting one of my beloved Chinese roast ducks. And though I haven't seen them hanging in windows, at least I know I can get roast duck here in Albany.
After three nights in Back Bay, we relocated for the weekend to Le Meridien in Cambridge. This hotel was smaller, not as nice as the Revere, but conveniently located just off of Massachusetts Ave. near MIT. One regret we have is that we didn't make it to Baraka Cafe in Cambridge; we'd walked from the T station north of Harvard all the way down Mass Ave. on Saturday and had to stop for sustenance before we got as far as Baraka Cafe. That meant not having room for some good Moroccan food. Next time, eh?
But when you try as much good food as we did over the course of the week, you can't really complain. Here are the rest of the details of our eating adventures in Boston:
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
It's been impossible not to have the city of Boston and its people on the mind the past couple weeks. I don't need to rehash everything that went down there, and I wasn't more personally affected by the bombings than the average person.
But just a month before the attacks, K and I were in Boston, walking along Boylston between our hotel and the Hynes Convention Center where the AWP Conference was being held. I remember walking past the library, the Marathon Sports store, in front of which these bombings occurred, and still get such an awful feeling about what happened there--how such an innocent spot could be so suddenly transformed into a war zone. It's unreal to think about, and I can't imagine what residents of Boston, or Watertown, or anyone more directly connected to the attacks, must feel after it all.
My memories of Boston are, as usual, fond--it's a city I've loved every time I've visited over the years. The conference? That drives me crazy, being surrounded by more than 10,000 writers and academics and wanna-bes and nutcases (though admittedly I probably fall into more than one of those categories). It was nice, though, so see a few people from the writing community that we know, attend a fine reading and talk with Richard Russo and Amy Bloom, and in general just enjoy the city and its food.
Yes, the food. We ate lots of it, skipping out on much of the conference to enjoy ourselves, and my goal is to recap this part of the trip, because it was pretty memorable. Enough to cover two blog posts. Here, then, is part one, in which I detail our adventures around Boston's Chinatown neighborhood.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
It's funny. I'm a big burger guy, but I haven't found myself talking about them much on the blog. And for a while, I don't think I even ate many around town after moving here. One at City Beer Hall, one at Five Guys.
But then I had one at Ruby Tuesday, and it was good. I'm not one to advocate chain restaurants, typically try to avoid them, but I can appreciate quality and value when I get it. And for $9.99, Ruby Tuesday offered a properly-cooked "handcrafted burger" with two sides (I chose mashed cauliflower and grilled string beans from an extensive list). Service was good, the Sam Adams Alpine Spring beer wasn't bad, and all in all K and I left as a couple of well-fed, satisfied customers.
Since then, I also finally got out to Guilderland to try a cheeseburger I'd read a bunch of good things about, the one from from Juicy Burgers. I won't deny that Juicy Burgers can make a tasty burger, but my feelings after eating there are complicated and leave me wanting to dig a little deeper into the whole idea of "cheap eats" in this area, and why I think that concept is flawed on so many levels.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
I'm eager for the day (year?) to arrive when Whole Foods finally opens its doors in the Colonie Center. But until then, I'm happy that a similar type of market has emerged at the Wilton Mall in Saratoga: Healthy Living Market.
From where we reside, Healthy Living Market's not exactly convenient--it reminds me of when we lived in Ohio and would drive about 40 minutes to Akron and pick up stuff at Mustard Seed Market. We'd always try to make a day of it, shop and work in a cafe and walk/hike on a trail that wouldn't leave us too sweaty for the rest of the day, and I imagine that might be what we do once in a while with Healthy Living Market.
Upon our first visit there, we were also reminded a lot of a similar market, Earth Fare, which was about a 10-15 minute walk from where we lived in North Carolina last year. I sure miss that convenience, I'll admit: taking a leisurely stroll around the curvy, hilly roads of our neighborhood, and then stopping by Earth Fare for some cheese, snacks, or prepared foods. Sure, we had to then basically climb a mountain with our bags in tow to get home, but it worked out well and limited how much we could buy in one trip.
But enough on that; this post isn't about nostalgia for Boone--I'm saving that for another day--it's about the many little things about Healthy Living Market that make it a fun place to stop when in the area.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
So I've had maple syrup on my mind a lot lately. I interviewed a couple local sugarmakers for my recent maple syrup article for All Over Albany, which I recommend reading if you haven't already not just because I wrote it, but because these two guys I talked to were so generous with their time and had a ton of interesting stuff to say.
I not only talked to these maple syrup experts, but I also read a little about sugaring so I didn't come off as a complete rube when it came to the process and science of it all. And when it was over, I'd restocked my pantry with a nice jug of Grade A medium amber maple syrup from Bulson Road Natural Sweeteners (this is the product made and sold by Mark Cipperly of Capital Agway).
I was ready to try that syrup, and while there certainly are ways in which you can use syrup that don't involve breakfast, for me there's no better way to enjoy it than on pancakes. And that's especially the case with the best pancake recipe I've ever tried, one K introduced me to and which comes from a somewhat surprising source: Bruce Paltrow, the late film and television producer and father of actress Gwyneth.