Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Disappointing Meal at The Capital American Eatery and Lounge

The process of discovery has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing my Eat This! articles for All Over Albany.  Being fairly new to the area, it's given extra incentive to searching the region for good dishes--sometimes at new restaurants, sometimes at restaurants that are just new to me.

But the flip side of this is that there are a lot of restaurants I've checked out that turn out to be mediocre or worse.  Often, these experiences don't warrant mentioning (well, maybe if I had more free time to work on my blog they would)--but when an experience is particularly notable for all the wrong reasons, I think it's worth discussing here.

And that's the case with our recent visit to The Capital American Eatery & Lounge in downtown Albany.  Sure, there was some good to be had--I certainly liked the pint of the Ithaca Flower Power IPA I had--but K and I found such frustration with our food that in a first, she's going to be contributing her own extensive account of what was wrong with her dish.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My Many Frustrations with Capital Region Coffee Shops

From Rev Coffee House in Hudson
Back in Boone, NC, where K and I lived for a year before moving up here to the Capital Region, there's a coffee shop called Espresso News that we were particularly fond of.  I've been thinking of Espresso News lately because I've been fairly underwhelmed by our local coffee shops.

What was it about Espresso News?  Part of the appeal was the shop's location; it was a five minute walk down the hill from where we lived.  Where we are now, in the hinterlands of the Latham/Watervliet suburbs, there's no choice but to get in a car.

But beyond that, Espresso News was a place that exuded the vibe of Boone itself: relaxed, an open space for everyone from students to professors to business professionals to tourists.  Downstairs was a simple, open room with many tables and outlets, while upstairs--remodeled to include a wine/beer/dessert bar--there were more tables and a number of cushioned chairs.  The coffee, roasted in-house, was excellent.

That's not to say it was perfect.  Sometimes it was impossible to find a seat because it was so convenient and popular; sometimes there were--how's a polite way to put this?--outdoorsy hipsters of a certain Boone brand who smelled as if they hadn't bathed in a week.  This could be...distracting.  But maybe this was part of its charm; you never knew what you'd see there.  Once we saw a pig on a leash in the outdoor seating area.

Ultimately, Espresso News was just the kind of spot K and I like for a coffee shop.  It was usually a great spot for us to settle in for a few hours and work.  As writers and teachers we both find this to be the most important aspect in a coffee shop.  The place was open late every night, so being, uh, not morning people, we didn't have to worry about the shop closing while we were on a roll.

I understand that there are some places in the Albany area that are making some good coffee and espresso drinks, but as I said, that's not the most important aspect of a coffee shop for us.  Here I want to explore some of the problems I've found in in these area coffee shops, and highlight a place we found in Hudson that we really like (except that it's almost an hour away).

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Glimpse into the Holy Land of Beer, aka Vermont

Heady Topper and Ms. Pac-Man, before The Alchemist brewery closed to the public

A couple weeks ago I detailed the eating portion of my first weekend trip to Vermont, a stroll through Burlington and nearby parts.  Very tasty.  But to be honest, I was looking forward to the beer even more than the food on this visit.  Thankfully, as I mentioned in that last post, there are a number of good restaurants that also serve some damn good beer on tap.

It's interesting: judging from the places K and I visited in Burlington--and the many others I read about online--it seems like a good beer list is just par for the course in restaurants, at least in this part of Vermont.  And why not?  There are so many fantastic local breweries, with residents who seem to appreciate good beer and visitors who are making trips to get those beers, that it only makes good business sense for these restaurants to have good beer on tap.

But coming from the Capital Region, where I've found it challenging to find good beer at restaurants that serve anything beyond standard (or worse) pub fare, it was a real pleasure to find some great beers in restaurants that offered some interesting (and tasty) food items on their menu.  But I've already talked about the food; here I want to talk about the beer--including my first taste of an offering from Hill Farmstead and my successful trip to The Alchemist's brewery to pick up some Heady Topper, just a short time before they closed to the public.