Monday, February 28, 2011


It's definitely a great resource; I feel like I don't get there enough, but I've always been impressed when I have.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar night at our house

First, we kicked things off with broccoli slaw with buttermilk dressing. The broccoli slaw is made by Dole and comes in a plastic bag in your grocer's produce department, but we can report that it is a quality product. We were mostly just a little sick of salad, and this has a nice kick to it. I made a dressing with buttermilk, tarragon, sugar, salt, pepper, sour cream, cider vinegar, and shallot. It was from Ruth Reichl's Gourmet cookbook. I actually met Ruth Reichl this past summer. I did some website work for the Mount, Edith Wharton's house, and they had a literary festival. She walked in the room, and I asked her where she lives. She said Chatham, NY and I said there was a restaurant we loved, Castle Street Cafe, in Great Barrington, MA near there. She said that was not possible because there were no good restaurants in Great Barrington. To which I said, "Have you been there?" to which she said "no", which I thought was incredibly arrogant. She said she had never been to any restaurants in Great Barrington, therefore she cannot actually know! Anyways, it's a delicious dressing, which we slightly altered based on what we had in our fridge, but buttermilk in general is underrated.

 Then, I made tourtiere. I had never had it before, but it seemed like an interesting French-Canadian thing. I went to Boston last summer as a reunion trip with the girls I did study abroad with, and we had a really great lunchtime meal at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (really intimate space and interesting museum too). And I bought the cookbook. I've made a few other things from it including artichoke and cheese pie, but this tourtiere was really good. I didn't use their recipe for pie crust as shortening seems really unhealthy to me. Instead, I used the recipe for pie crust from this book. It is from a cafe in Paris. I haven't made as many things as I've wanted from it, but I bought it from the Morgan Library and Museum shop when I used to work there in 2009.
Back to the tourtiere, I think what makes it most interesting is the combination of the beef, pork, onion and the allspice. The recipe also wanted cloves, but we had tarragon so we used that. It is a very nice combination, and also makes the house smell amazing. Apparently, Canadians eat it with baked beans, ketchup, pickles and relishes. We only had pickles, but it seemed like an interesting concept. Next up on the Canadian food front, I'd like to try matrimonial bars!

Ode to Tea

When we lived in NYC, we loved Alice's Tea Cup. Then, I  studied abroad in London and my classmates there and I went to Claridge's for the afternoon tea. It was such a great time, and I really love the whole concept of getting your own pot of tea chosen from a list the size of the Bible, with your scone and your clotted cream. It's so classy, and also forces you to slow down and ask your friend "How is your day going?" It's one of life's most affordable luxuries. 

So at the recommendation of my coworker we visited the Whistling Kettle in Ballston Spa. We really love it,  and even went back to celebrate my birthday weekend last week. A woman at an artsy store in town told me that it is run by a young couple, that it has only been open a few years, and that it seems always busy because according to her it has broad appeal from older woman to young couples. If you order the afternoon tea you get to choose between a sandwich or a quiche, a soup or a salad, and a scone or other dessert, and it all comes out as a 3-tiered delight. Also included is your own pot of their delicious tea. I personally love the cucumber cream cheese sandwiches with pumpernickel bread and the edges cut off. Although part of that might be that it totally reminds me of our very sophisticated afternoon at Claridge's in London. The soups we have tried there have all been really great including the lobster bisque. My fiance usually gets the scones for dessert, and it might be worth the visit just for those.

One can also buy bulk tea to enjoy later at home. Some of our favorites include: Lavender Earl Grey, Passion, Orange, and Chili Rooibos, Scottish Breakfast, and all the varieties of chai we have tried. You can also purchase some useful tea accessories for brewing at home. I will say though that some of the seating is less than ideal, and you are kind of crammed in New York City-style. However, there are some seats that have couches, and we got one of those last time during my birthday celebration, and that was really fabulous. All around a great time, and I am really glad my coworker suggested it to us. It's totally worth the drive from Albany, especially because there are a lot of cute artsy shops in town, and a sports card shop where I scored some NBA cards from the 1990s and some Barry Sanders ones (Detroit, represent!). Anyways, I look forward to visiting again, trying a new tea, and taking a moment to slow down, relax, and eat a cucumber sandwich with the edges cut off.

Cafe Capriccio

I should note that my review of Cafe Capriccio cannot be completely impartial. Its reputation for excellence was sufficient for me to choose it as the site of my wedding proposal sight unseen. (And the fact that Ms. Garlic accepted is in itself a very strong review.) But it's still worthwhile to see if its reputation would hold up in the more sober light of a more typical date night. The answer: yes. The combination of food, service and price is as good as any I've experienced in the Capital region so far.

Having tried the signature squid ink pasta on our first visit, we decided go a little more classic this time. For the appetizers, ms. Garlic had a lovely selection of marinated olives and I went with the appetizer-sized puttanesca. I'm generally reluctant to order anything I can make well myself, but in this case it was worth it. The nicely spicy sauce was a beautiful compliment to fresh tagliatelle, and since fresh pasta is not yet part of our home repertoire it wasn't redundant.

For her main course, Ms. Garlic ordered some exceptional homemade ravioli filled with butternut squash, cranberry and orange zest. Although the sauce was perhaps a touch creamy for my tastes, it was terrific overall. I had a variation on Veal Mederia with a light, silky tomato and mushroom sauce. It was also very successful, with well-selected fresh vegetables and a very tasty polenta as accompaniments. (I'm rarely impressed by the latter, but the preparation here was nearly perfect.)

Everything else about the meal was first-rate. The service was friendly and attentive, with the one glitch (no bread basket with the appetizers) was more than compensated for when we were given a fresh loaf of homemade bread for lunch the next day. Because the staff remembered the occasion of our last visit, we were also comped a tiramisu. At this late date, it's almost as hard to impress with that very 80s dessert as it is with polenta, but it was as good as anything we had. It's also worth mentioning that the price point is very reasonable, particularly considering the wide variety of carefully selected wine options by the glass. Pasta dinners at $15 and most of the entrees $25 or less is not out of line with Italian restaurants in the area that aren't nearly as accomplished.

At least on the basis of our two visits Cafe Capriccio still merits its reputation.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Brief Cooking Note

The tarragon sauteed chicken breasts from Ad Hoc at Home are strongly recommended. The essential method is classic, of course, but the 2 hours of pre-seasoning and refrigeration make the difference between bland and flavorful.