Friday, August 31, 2012

Musings on Troy's Flying Chicken and Southern/Soul Food

Former star of Chicken Run
I'm going to talk about the new Southern/Soul food restaurant in Troy, The Flying Chicken, in a bit.  But first, at the risk of burying the lede--which is that The Flying Chicken is serving some really quality food--I want to get into the whole idea of Southern and Soul food, the dichotomy between the two, and what these differences might mean.

What gets me thinking about these matters, other than The Flying Chicken's food, is that their Facebook page calls the place both a "Soul food restaurant (and) Southern restaurant."  As of now, less than two months into their existence, the restaurant serves a pretty simple menu focused around fried chicken.  The special the day I visited was fish and grits, with sides including collard greens and sweet potato salad.  I ordered the chicken and waffles, with a side of real maple syrup.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Tale of Two Eggplants

I've never been anti-eggplant.  As a picky child, I eyed them suspiciously the first time my grandmother served them.  But because she's the best, I was willing to try them.  And they were all right.

But I didn't really develop strong feelings for eggplants (or aubergines, as they call them in the UK--which I prefer, but sounds insufferably snobby if you're American) until several years later when I ate the Asian version at a Thai restaurant.  I was simultaneously enlightened and flabbergasted.  How could they be so much better than your regular eggplant?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Boatswain H.L.V. Ale

This was one of those impulse buys that I typically tend to avoid--there's only so much money to spend and beer to drink, so why not investigate before dropping some coin?  But the Boatswain H.L.V. Ale was at Trader Joe's, and of course it was cheap ($2.29 for a bomber).  This was my first trip to Albany's new TJ's store, only a few days after opening, so it was a zoo and this beer was an extra treat I grabbed at the end of the visit, only to store it for the past few weeks in my beer cave, a.k.a. bedroom closet.

The Boatswain line of beers seems to be exclusive to Trader Joe's, brewed by Minhas Craft Brewery (though on the bottle the brewery is listed as Rhinelander) out of Monroe, Wisconsin.  The name of the beer refers to a type of ship, even though Monroe is in the middle of the state, nowhere near Lake Michigan--which is almost as amusing as the fictional Westish College baseball team, of Chad Harbach's novel The Art of Fielding, being named the Harpooners despite also being located in Wisconsin.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Nice Place to Nosh in Guilderland

It's in a re-purposed Wendy's; you can't help but notice that when arriving at Nosh, the New York-style deli that opened just over a week ago on Western Avenue, just a pickle's throw from the Crossgates Mall.

Never mind what used to live in this building.  The folks behind Nosh have done what they can to change the feel inside.  The decor is black-and-white and there's a takeout counter in front of the kitchen.  Most importantly, the food is no longer burgers and fries but smoked whitefish and pastrami.  Well, maybe more importantly: it's good.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Highland Brewing Razor Wit

A leftover from my one year spent in the mountains of North Carolina--a single bottle of Highland Brewing's Razor Wit.  Worth reviewing, I figured, because I don't expect to be drinking it again anytime soon.  Highland is based out of Asheville and doesn't distribute north of Virginia.

I'm a fan of witbiers, and the Razor Wit is a pretty solid version of the style.  It pours a nice hazy shade of gold, the result of the type of yeast used and the beer being unfiltered.  Not much head on my pour, and what was there dissipated quickly and left basically no trace of lacing on the glass.

This beer has some nice stuff going on in the taste: a little bit of funk, a little bit of wheaty sourness.  That being said, it's not the most complex, and it's on the lighter end of even the witbier register at 4.5% ABV.  When it comes to witbiers, I like the wheat flavor to be more in the background, obscured by strong spicing.

Compared to a couple witbiers I tried for the first time this past year--Allagash White and Dogfish Head's Red & White--the Razor Wit comes in a pretty distant third.  But look, Allagash White is one of the best examples of the style, and the Red & White is witbier on steriods: 10% ABV, it's fermented with pinot noir juice and partly aged in oak tanks.  I've tried several different beers from Highland, and they're all solid, worth recommending.  The seasonal Thunderstruck Coffee Porter is a standout, worth searching for.

The Razor Wit didn't ease my longing for a Great Lakes Holy Moses white ale, my summer beer of choice the previous few years.  I love the way the Holy Moses is liberally spiced with orange peel, chamomile, and coriander.  Alas, Great Lakes isn't distributed to the western side of New York, and I believe the farthest east it travels in the state is Syracuse or Ithaca.

Still a few months until I start craving their Christmas Ale.  Maybe another goal of this blog should be trying to get Great Lakes distributed a little farther east here in the Empire State.

What This is About: An Introduction

Where to begin?  It feels like the first day of class, maybe because it's that time of year, when I would spend a minute or so (depending on my mood and the desperation I saw in the faces staring back at me) saying a little about myself.  This worked best with my adult students, who I think liked realizing that there was a human being in front of them, even if he was a nervous little nerd.  The eighteen-year-olds?  They were already checked out, fantasizing about their next Facebook post.

So without any fall classes on the horizon (for the first time in six years) after relocating to the Albany, NY area less than a month ago, it feels right to spend a minute explaining--even if, like so often in class, this is mostly for myself--why I've decided to start a blog, especially one dedicated to food instead of, say, fantasy baseball or the joys of nit-picking.

In some ways, it's simple.  I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about eating and drinking.  A lot of my time spent online, whether it's reading reviews or searching for new places to eat, has to do with food.  And after reading so many other people putting their two cents out there about this stuff, I can't help but feel that, gosh darn it, maybe I have something worth saying, too.