Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Hollow, Albany

Yesterday, my friend and former co-worker Megan and I met up at an opening at the Albany Center Gallery (where I had never been before, but thought it was a really cool space) and headed over to The Hollow, where I've been wanting to go for quite some time. I'm not really one for Happy Hour menus (maybe because most nights you'd rather go on and have a proper dinner), but on Fridays, after a long hard week - you deserve those sliders and that mason jar of whatever pretty looking mixture! You made it this far! Anything else can wait, I say.

So we showed up and ordered from the Happy Hour menu the shrimp skewers which come with a really nice vinaigrette, some arugula, and some roasted red peppers. They were very flavorful and had a kicked up spice on them, which I enjoyed. We also ordered the asparagus plate which tasted super fresh and was perfect for spring (shall it ever really show up) with the lemon and the parsley.

We were drinking the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($1 off at Happy Hour, heeey!), which was fine and just the ticket. I'm pretty disappointed though, after looking at all the relatively local places represented on the beer list to see no Finger Lakes wines represented on the wine list at all (some from Long Island, though, which I'd like to learn more about).

Then we moved on to the hummus board - a bunch of good stuff piled on together on a big long plank - roasted red peppers, arugula, goat cheese, I think some Parmesan or some other hard cheese, and some naan bread. I was a fan of it all, and the hummus was very tasty with a tangy lemon flavor.

The waiter was there when we needed him, but not intrusive in any way, which was perfect for our chatting.

There are times in the past that I have wondered if work friends are real friends. I think after all this time, I can say, yes, they are, but they are almost something better in a way too. They knew you down in the trenches, in difficult situations which may have taken a lot of effort to find your way out of. They know exactly where you've come from, and how you were treated, and can appreciate your progress or struggles more than anyone. I type this from another former coworker's house whose dogs I have been watching for 5 years - half a decade! Any kind of work is something we have to do, we show up rain or slush or hail or when we're extremely tired, we keep showing up, sharing the carpet with strangers, chatting with them about the weather and the Academy Awards - doing tasks we have to do to get a paycheck to get by. Then one day, you realize your former coworkers feel a lot like relatives. They remember things you forgot you told them, and want updates on your family members whether they've met them or not. I'm going to go ahead and say whatever path led me to all these people, was a really great path indeed.

I'd love to spend another Friday evening decompressing and transitioning from the work week to the weekend at the Hollow having a drink and nibbling on their tasty snacks.

Valentine's Day Honeymoon Quasi-Re-Creation

Ms. Garlic and I never go out for Valentine's Day, which even if you can get into your restaurant of choice tends to involve prix fixe specials that are inferior but substantially more expensive than the restaurant's typical menu.  And a restaurant meal budget can get you some very fancy ingredients for a home meal, so we prefer that.

Back in February, I made rack of lamb for the anniversary.  I use Thomas Keller's recipe, which reminds me of our honeymoon (we spent part of it in Northern California, and while Keller's most famous restaurant is far beyond our means we did eat at the much more affordable and still excellent bistro Bouchon.)    I pretty much follow the recipe as is, although as with most restaurant recipes about half the butter in the rub works fine.  You combine anchovy, garlic and butter with a mortar and pestle (or food processor -- we did the former, thanks Ms. Garlic for the mortaring and pestling!), add bread crumbs and herbs.  Sear the rack of lamb for a couple minutes, cover it with a mixture of Dijon mustard and a little honey, and then cover with the bread crumb mixture.

From here, we used a tablespoon of the lamb fat to brown some fingerling potatoes, which conveniently roast for pretty much the same time as the lamb.  For the other vegetable side, we made broccoli in a matter similar to this recipe, only 1)peeling the stems is a massive pain in the ass that yields very little benefit to me, but YMMV; 2)I add a minced shallot as well as the garlic; and 3)I use half dry vermouth and half water for the boiling liquid.

This year, we did splurge on the wine a bit -- again advantage of a home-cooked meal! -- and got the Merry Edwards Pinot Noir.  It's the first glass of wine I had on the Napa part of our honeymoon, and it's fantastic.

Every meal is terrific with Ms. Garlic, but this one is extra terrific.

Finally, let me add that if you roast with any frequency this is the BEST THING EVER.  It gives you the temperature as you go, and it's always reliable.  The other meat thermometers I had gave accurate temperatures maybe half the time, which is useless.  This one works.