Albany’s annual birthday offering to Albany John was up and running this weekend. Tulip Fest was okay this year, but the weather wasn’t really in our favor. Saturday had alternating heavy downpours and sunshine, and Sunday was just plain chilly. Here’s my one obligatory tulip picture.
Saturday was busy-ish, but not as busy as in years past. It seemed like there were some die-hards out there, but not really any of the usual characters we run in to on Albany festival days.
Lots of kids playing beer pong, though. Who plays beer pong during a festival? Maybe I’m just getting cranky and old, but save it for the house parties. Tulip Fest is all about being outside and enjoying the event. If you’re playing beer pong, even at a snails pace, everything else is going to be background noise. Call me old fashioned, but if you’re drinking at Tulip Fest, pop a seat on the ground and chug those tall boys like you’re at an alcoholic picnic.
My girlie Manhattan Maka and CVS (Albany John’s brother) joined us for the weekend. It was CVS’s first Tulip Fest. Nice, but last year’s weather was way more accomodating. We made the rounds of food stalls and some vendors. They got a pretty decent crab cake and some rubbery coconut shrimp.
We also ran into one of Albany John’s friends, who came up from Brooklyn to see him. He ambushed us as we did a walk around of the main stage. It was a bit of a surprise, and Albany John was beyond happy to have him up.
Albany John found the burnt beef ends sandwich at Capital Q’s stand. He made a bee line there – $7 for a hefty roll filled with beefy goodness and topped with their excellent pickles. I nabbed a couple of bites.
Soon we were off to meet up with Mama and Papa Amherst, who also came in for a visit. We headed further downtown to…
Wolff’s Biergarten! Well hello, little fiberglass non-thiefed piggies! We filled everyone in on the history of these little guys. Heh, heh – they are too cute. Good choice, Matt!
Albany John got his boot – the deposit HAS to be in cash now, just FYI. So bring $40 in cash to cover your boot. I just figured we could leave the card with them like the last time, but I haven’t been over to Wolff’s in a bit, so, ya know – plan accordingly.
The bartender was a riot – busy, but still really friendly and nice. He told Albany John he’d lose his deposit if he didn’t finish the boot in 10 minutes. When I went up for a drink he told me to tell him he had six minutes left. Hee hee. He was pretty close.
Papa Amherst got snacks for the table since we had enough food for an army back home.
Brussels sprouts with bacon. Action shot of lemon squeezings.
ONION RINGS! These might be some of the best onion rings I’ve ever had. Fresh onions, fried but not greasy, and a large container of sauce to dip them in. The sauce had a great horseradish kick.
If you’re at Wolff’s – get the onion rings.
The whole crew liked Wolff’s – they all like beer, and the setting in general. It probably also helped that we went when it wasn’t too busy, so finding a table was a piece of cake.
Just don’t ask me how many peanuts I ate (Matt, sorry, my peanut eating ability is uncontrollable. And those peanuts are awesome).
We got back to our house and started prepping more food for dinner. I’d made a white lasagna earlier in the week.
The dough was 1/2 + 2 T semolina flour, 2/3 + 1 T AP flour, 6 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, 1 T milk, and 1 T oil. Knead it until the dough springs back, around 10 minutes. Then let it sit for about 30 minutes before rolling out.
I rolled it out to a level 7 – the thinnest it would go. Then I let it dry in sheets for about 30-60 minutes. Not completely dry, but y’know – drying out while I was rolling out other dough. So it was mostly dry and firm.
You’re probably going to think I’m crazy, but I also made my own alfredo-bechamel type sauce. It wasn’t too hard, just time consuming. But I think it was worth it. Any way, it was all layered with white sauce, plops of ricotta, shredded mozzarella cheese, and fresh spinach leaves. It all held up just fine covered in the fridge for a day or two uncooked.
Baked it covered in foil for 30 minutes at 350 F, then uncovered for about 10 minutes to brown the top. Really tasty stuff. I liked the thin noodles. I’ll totally make it again.
Here is the rest of what we prepped cooked for the birthday boy. The real star of the meal were the sausages CVS brought back from a recent trip he and Manhattan Maka took to visit friends back in Chicago.
These Chicago sausages were a real treat. They brought them on the plane back from Chicago, and on the bus ride up from NYC. It was so nice of him – they tasted great. So many different kinds. Lamb, kielbasas, tomato-basil… so good!
We also had beef ribs (Korean seasonings), hummus, and a metric ton of Bella Napoli rolls.
Sistah and one of her friends popped up around then, and we all had a grand old time. Hopefully no one was too cramped.
Papa Amherst made a strawberry rhubarb pie and some ricotta lemon cookies. I could bathe myself in that pie. SO good.
The next day I woke everyone and their hangovers up with cymbals (I’m kidding – I don’t own cymbals. I had to make do with a pot and wooden spoon). I managed to get some breakfast into that lot before Albany John began his mother’s day plans.
He took Mama Amherst to Falls View Park in Cohoes, which is one of Albany John’s new favorite photo spots.
Lots of stairs. The stairs wobble in a way that makes sense to architects, but still freaks out the rest of us.
It’s something like the 2nd or 3rd largest waterfall in the U.S. Who knew it was right here in Cohoes, NY? I bet the mastadons used to bathe in it.
Next Albany John wanted to take his Mama out for food. So everyone settled on Shining Rainbow on Central Ave.
We didn’t have reservations, but luckily it wasn’t too busy. We got a big table in the back with a lazy susan.
I did most of the ordering, picking a few dim sum dishes and a few main dishes.
Har gow, pork spareribs, siu mai, and steamed pork buns. There was also a turnip cake.
When we were last here with Manhattan Maka and CVS, some of the items were on the heavy side, but things have improved considerably. The har gow skins were great – just the right amount of thickness and chewiness. Better than before.
I like the kick of spiciness in the black bean spareribs (some slices of fresh jalapeno really liven things up). All were very fresh and tasty.
Half of a fried crispy-skinned chicken ($12.95). This was very good – moist meat and crispy skin, all with a tasty sauce. It also had lots of garlic cloves with it. Not really garlicky though – enjoyable.
Stuffed eggplant and some shrimp balls. Mama Amherst and I love us some Japanese eggplant – it’s so sweet and creamy. These also tasted lighter than last time (in a very good way), like they’ed been sliced and steamed, and then stuffed with shrimp and fried. Not too oily at all.
The shrimp balls were just plain fun since they had the fried shreds around them.
Albany John’s buddy from Brooklyn wanted veggie fried rice, so we got an order of it. It looked fine, but I don’t like getting fried rice in restaurants. It’s okay, but there are so many other dishes to eat.
Like beef chow fun, hello! They might give the Hong Kong Bakery a run for their money with this dish. Beautifully tender meat, and a great smokiness and charred flavor in the entire dish. The noodles were soft and chewy, and it was loaded with crunchy beansprouts and onion slices. I loved the copious amount of onions, Albany John not so much.
Out of curiosity, Albany John felt obligated to get the “Spinach with Girlie Sauce”. Evidently it’s garlic sauce – typo of some sort. Order it – water spinach lightly sauteed with some roasted cloves of garlic. It adds some nice light greenery to your meal, and is affordably priced ($6.50, I think), and you won’t have garlic breath after you eat it since they’re roasted.
We all parted ways soon after that. It was good to have the fam together for the weekend. It’s never really long enough.
We headed into Tulip Fest to see what was up on Sunday. It was so cold, I’d wished I’d brought gloves. Way worse weather than Saturday. As you can tell, there wasn’t much of a crowd there on Sunday.
I felt bad for the vendors. They all looked like they were ready to pack up and go home. It couldn’t have been a good day for sales.
I did walk by Lark Tavern and noticed this great poster up. It’s a phoenix that says “Out of the ashes Lark Tavern wil rise again!” I love it. I think it’s a great representation of the community Tess has built around the Lark Tavern.
BTW, check out FridayPuppy.com and donate to help the Lark Tavern if you haven’t already.
I got hungry again, and headed to Hong Kong Bakery for some snacks.
Carbs and sweets! Yum!
This is a coconut pineapple bun. The pineapple refers to the topping – there’s no pineapple in it. I guess the top is supposed to look sort of like a pineapple? Either way, it’s buttery and crunchy and good.
I got the last one, and I’m glad I did. They’re only 80 cents!
Here’s what the inside looks like. The pinky-ness is from a light. It’s all white and chock full of coconut filling inside. This bun was very fresh. The “pineapple” topping was still crunchy and flaky, and the bun dough was very soft and tender.
I also tried a napoleon. Not too sweet, but plenty buttery and flaky. Not for those on a diet. The other thing I got was a plain pineapple bun with no filling, but I stuffed it with Adirondack Bear Paw ice cream from Stewarts. After that I crashed into a sugar coma and took a 2 hour nap.