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CBH 001 amuse popcorn

“Hey m’dear, any interest in going to a whiskey tasting dinner tomorrow night at City Beer Hall  (in collaboration with The Speakeasy)?”

There’s something to be said for good friends who bring you food when you’re sick, generally check in on you while conquering the world, and take you as their date to a whiskey dinner. Deanna Fox is one of those friends and then some. *swoons at succinct offer of one of my favorite brown liquors*

City Beer Hall’s chef Dimitrios Menagias and Robert Mack, the man behind the Speakeasy’s cocktail program, teamed up to pair food with drink from Brown Forman (an American owned spirit and wine business). It was a good night.

We had a popcorn amuse atop a truffled mousse with mushrooms. Paired with the fun amuse drink below whose name I’ve forgotten because this happened a week ago and I have the memory of a fly.

CBH 001 Drink
CBH Course 1 Drink Indian Candy Corn cocktailCBH Course 1 Drink Woodford White Corn Bourbon

Course 1: Indian Candy Corn cocktail (left) featuring Woodford White Corn Bourbon (neat, on the right).
The bourbon itself had a strong caramel scent, and was a real kicky type bourbon. The cocktail was equally punchy.

CBH Course 1 Winter Salad

Course 1: Winter Salad. Grilled prawn, carrots, starfruit, napa cabbage, persimmon nuoc chom. A few kernels of freeze dried corn on the right that paired very well with the meal and bourbon. This made me realize how underutilized napa cabbage is in its raw, salad-y form. A great winter salad with bright notes from the persimmon nuoc chom.

CBH Course 2 Charcuterie

Course 2: Charcuterie. My notes on this dish are covered in hearts. Duck pastrami, foie gras mousse, venison, sweet corn mostarda, pickled green tomatoes. I was talking with some folks recently who said they just didn’t “get” foie gras, and I had to reconsider our friendship for a moment. It’s fat, rich, and delicious. What’s not to like? Duck pastrami was deliciously smoky, aand was great paired with the pickled green tomatoes. The sweet corn mostarta also contained some toasted corn.

CBH Course 2 Charcuterie2CBH Course 2 Charcuterie3

I just couldn’t help but take  bunch of pictures of this plate. There was so much to love!

CBH Course 2 Drink Lion's Tail

Course 2: Lion’s Tail with Old Forester 1870 (which I forgot to take a picture of, and the cocktail picture isn’t much better. sigh). I LOVED the Lion’s tail it was tart and smoky with clove flavors. More hearts drawn around this cocktail. The Old Forester 1870 is the founding brand. 90 proof, spicy, and burns just a tad when sipped neat.

CBH Course 3 Intermezzo

Course 3: Intermezzo, with a cocktail reprieve. Pomelo sorbetto, aperol, candied pomelo peel. Dimitrios knocked this out of the park. The skill alone in candying the pomelo peel deserves respect. They were so thin, and so perfectly candied. Covered in sugar, and not too dry or too chewy. One of our table mates wasn’t familiar with pomelo, and remarked that it tasted “kind of like weed smells”, which is actually kind of accurate with its dank tartness and pungent citrus oils. It’s great to see this citrus featured front and center, especially as a plate cleanser.

CBH Course 4 Manhattan

Course 4: Manhattan with Old Forester 1897, where I have clearly crossed over from sober to jovial as I’ve forgotten to take another shot of the bourbon in its neat form. This may have been my favorite to drink neat or with a few drops of water in it, despite my forgetfulness. It had a tart nasal note, a bit milder than the white corn bourbon in the first course, with what I can only describe as having  great spicy afterburn. Definitely something to warm you up on cold winter night. The Manhattan was also expertly executed, using charred bitters and rhubarb vermouth. And that cherry. Or as my notes read “Oh my god, that brandied cherry”. It’s juicy and delicious and I love saving it to chew with the last few sips of the drink at the end. I think I could just load that Manhattan up with those brandied cherries and be a happy woman.

CBH Course 4 Wild Boar

Course 4: Wild Boar. Smoked corn relish, spaetzle, baby kale, red pepper oil. The corn was smoked over apple wood, the spaetzle was made with parsnip and mustard seed which added a lightly sweet and vegetal note to the spaetzle. All of this worked wonderfully with the boar, and sipping the Manhattan along with this dish made me feel like a very lucky woman to be eating such a fine dish, and to have a friend who’d invite me along to even try this.

CBH Course 4 Wild Boar2

I had to use every ounce of willpower to resist picking up the bone and sucking every bit of delicious cartilage and tendon off of the bone.

CBH course 5 Jack Daniels Howard St. Scaffa

Course 5: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, Barrel Proof (left); Howard St. Scaffa (right). Wow, barrel proof. 130.8% alcohol. Holy caramel smell, with a subtle note of cinnamon. “Drinkable fire” someone noted at our table. Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” was playing in my head drinking this, in very enjoyable way. The Howard St. Scaffa featured a mellow cointreau noir and one drop of Angry God ghost pepper bitters. A definite way to turn up the heat.

CBH course 5 Stuffed Figs

Course 5: Stuffed Figs. Harbison, pecan, Shiva’s wrath bitters, dark chocolate. Harbison cheese stuffed into a Greek dried fig which was reconstituted in cointreau noir. The pecans were toasted and tossed in Shiva’s wrath bitters. This was a delightful way to end the dinner on a high note. The Harbison was creamy (a triple cream to be exact) with grassy, funky, rich notes that worked well to counter the heat of the drinks and complement the sweetness of the fig.

Way to end dinner on a high note. Mic drop Dimitrios and Robert.

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My big Christmas present from Albany John was dinner at The Crimson Sparrow. The Crimson Sparrow has a frequently changing tasting menu with the occasional Asian influence. It’s headed by owner John McCarthy, and the experience was thoroughly satisfying. We were there for a little over two hours – the meal was paced so well we didn’t even notice how late it was once we left!

To note, the lighting in the dining room is a bit low, and I’m still trying to figure out how to work my new macro lens, so I’ll include a link to Crimson Sparrow’s IG account with much better pictures of these dishes.
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First up was the smoked octopus on uni puree, lardo, and shiso micro greens (Insta Pic). This was a two bite affair and I could have easily done with a plate of this. The octopus was perfectly executed – smoky, tender and meaty, and the uni puree was a deliciously rich pairing. Just an outstanding dish.
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Brussels sprouts with snails, charred leek, miso, honey, cashews, and parsley (IG Pic). The brussels sprouts were deliciously crispy and nutty, and a welcome vegetal dish. I couldn’t discern any snails, but didn’t realize it until I was done with the dish. I really enjoyed this, just didn’t pick up on all of the flavors noted.
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Sunchoke soup! (Instagram Pic) Sunchoke puree with date, chestnut, hazelnut, pickled cauliflower, black truffle. Oh. My. Gosh. Truffles. I go gaga for truffles. Albany John, not so much. This was a rich and creamy puree of sunchokes. One where, if you made it yourself, you’d be hesitant to serve seconds. The cauliflower, dates, and pickled cauliflower were judiciously portioned out in a wee mince beneath the shaving of black truffle. The black truffle added a lovely rich earthiness to the soup. So wonderful, Albany John even enjoyed the truffle aspect. And darn, I was hoping to get an extra slice of truffle from his portion – tee hee. Just kidding – I’m happy he has found one iteration of truffle that he enjoys.
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Scallop on top of salsify puree with masago (IG Photo is slightly different, but you get the delicious idea). Yet another dish that I could have very easily eaten a lot more of. A perfectly seared scallop, still soft and briny, and hugged with black masago.

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Pork belly with white beans, fennel, bay, mustard, rye (IG Pic). I heard fennel and my ears perked up. Uh oh. I’m not normally a fennel fan. But however this was made – yes. I am a fennel fan. The pork was meltinly tender, and the beans were a nice contrast.

Main Course time! Salmon and beef were the two main course options, so we got one of each.
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Skirt steak with broccolini and black bean peanut sauce underneath (No IG photo). This was one the only *womp womp* dish on the menu. The black bean and peanut sauce was just too much – the fermented black bean too present, and oddly out of whack with Crimson Sparrow’s normally judicious portioning. The beef was well cooked, but compared to the rest of the menu this seemed, well, just too normal.
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King salmon on a bed of black lentils, with bonito, sweet potato, maitake, sweet fern, and rock chives (IG Photo). Oh, sweet heavens, yes. Yes a thousand times over. The salmon was so wonderfully (minimally) cooked. The crisp maitakes were a nice textural contrast while also acting as a meaty complement.

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And then there was my favorite of amouses – the dessert amouse. Mulled spice anglaise, red currants, pistachios (IG Pic). What a nice surprise! It was a sphere of mulled spice anglaise, which had me wondering how I could recreate this flavor at home. Maybe reduce some mulled cider and mix it with anglaise? J
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Dessert also featured two courses, and Albany John went with the cheese course – a sheepsmilk soft cheese, I believe, with Bonfiglio bread and some honey on the side.
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I went with the sake lees ice cream on top of green tea cake mountains with some preserved fruit. I realized after ordering that I generally don’t care for sake, so this ice cream on its own didn’t quite sing to me, but as it melted, it made a nice sauce for the cakes to sop up. The cakes were a bit dry and dense and seemed intentional to resemble parts of earth. Admirable to look at, that’s for sure.

Each tasting menu is $75, with wine pairings available for $55. They also have brunch on the weekends, and Sunday Supper (a paired down and more casual tasting menu for $45). I can’t wait to return to try brunch and supper.

 

Know what’s better than getting food from Nighthawk’s Kitchen at the Troy Farmers Market? Having your husbear BRING you Nighthawk’s Kitchen after sleeping past noon. Man, I’m one lucky lady.

The pulled pork over egg & cheese was pretty good… but in all honesty it was easy to push aside when these are in yo’ face:

RIBS! Smoked pork rib goodness! Look at that pink rib meat from the smoke! These were juicy, just firm enough, and so perfectly flavored.

Erhmagerhhh – these ribs were so good, the mac & cheese was even unnecessary. Although my only complaint was that my better half didn’t bring me a full rack. My dad would love these – we are swinging by for ribs the next time he’s in town for sure.

They were so good that my picky little bucket of crankiness & fur came up for a few hearty sniffs.

Every time I cure some meat, I think of Jon in Albany. Because he gave me 8 oz of curing pink death salt. When you only use 1/4 tsp at a time, that is a LOT of curing salt.

I cured some pork loin I picked up at Roma Importing in Latham. Let it go for at least 5 days in a brine from Ruhlman, and it’s good to go! The gist of it is 1 gallon of water, 1/4 tsp pink curing salt, 1 1/2 c kosher salt, 1/2 c sugar (uh, don’t quote me on those salt & sugar measurements… it’s probably wrong). And then you can toss in whatever seasonings you want. I tossed in a half a head of garlic cloves and that was about it. Maybe some onion powder. Next time I’ll add in more… stuff.

But smoked over some maple wood chip bits and you get yourself a fine piece of cured, meaty goodness. This was a pork loin, so it was a fairly lean cut of meat to begin with. And I may have over smoked it a tad in the heat, so it’s drier than I’d like it to be, but Albany John keeps telling me that it’s really not as dry as I think it is.

Either way, great way to use up some meat (I picked this up for $3.99/lb on sale at Roma’s – their sale meats are still better quality than the grocery store any day of the week). For some reason I find cured meats more satisfying in smaller quantities, so it’s a good way to keep meat consumption down. I had some bread leftover and made a pretty bangin’ grilled cheese and ham sandwich (it takes me, like, 30 minutes because I keep the pan over low heat, otherwise I burn the bread, but it is so golden and delicious it is worth the wait). And Albany John’s been using some bits in omelettes.

Oh, I’ve also been back on a dessert kick at nights lately. Toasted pecans and cacao nibs were the dessert de nuit.



So. You might know that I am a spurious individual given to the occasional impulse purchase. In this case it was about 10 pounds of primo Kurobuta pork belly from Adventure in Food. Given that my significantly better half is from Western Mass, it’s pretty much local to me.



Also, quite a nice purchase at around $7.99 per pound. This bacon was cooked two ways. One with my stovetop hot smoker, and cold smoking with the help of one Chef Christopher Tanner.

I’ll get the math out of the way. The hot smoked bacon lost about 25% of its weight while smoking. So it was closer to $10.50 per pound for hot smoked bacon. I didn’t weigh the cold smoked bacon, but I don’t think it lost very much weight. Cold smoked and all. Next time I’ll try to be a bit better with my measurements so I can nerd out and create a graph on weight variances.

The hot smoked bacon is delicious and 100% cooked. 180-200F with maple wood chips until the bacon registers around 160 F and the meat looks pinky and good. Kind of like super delicious fatty ham. Just use Ruhlman’s cure and you’re set. A few weeks, 6 weeks…. it’s all good.

I enlisted The Profussor in this cholesterol laden drive. Parce que je suis égoïste et je voulais une autre personne à essayer ce lard.

Any way. Step 9723 of Project Bacon is to petition your chef friends to cold smoke your bacon out of the kindness of their hearts ‘coz they have cold smokers and you don’t. Pull out all the stops – compliments, pouty faces, promises of first born children. This is science, damnit! COLD SMOKED BACON THAT YOU CURED, HULLOO!

Your chef friend may explicitly tell you “You NEED to cook this. DON’T eat this raw. Whatever you do, don’t eat this raw. COOK IT.” Clearly, my reputation for putting things in my mouth precedes me. Okay, cause I might have just tried a wee slice of raw bacon. But I didn’t cause Tanner was all concerned about me eating raw pork. Sheesh.

So I just cooked the bacon. SO GOOD. Best part of making your own bacon is slicing pieces to your own desired thickness. THICK BACON!!

Here is what the bacon looked like raw. Huuuuge props to Chef Tanner for vacuum sealing it for me too!

Bacon lurve! So making your own bacon isn’t exactly easy, but oh man is it worthwhile. SO FREAKING GOOD.



But the down side is that it is so yummy you will want to eat tons of delicious bacon slices whenever you open the fridge and the bacon is just sitting there. Sitting there in the bag. Un eaten. Poor bacon, come to my belly.


Last weekend I went Sugar Shacking as part of Maple Weekend with Sandra, Daniel B., and Cap to Cap. We went to Kent’s Sugar House in Berlin, NY. I liked that they were on some other blogs. I appreciate a social media presence, but I’m just a bit biased, haha.

That smell – once you smell it, you’ll never forget it. The smell of syrupifying maple.

We took an outside tour first, and got to sample some of the maple sap that comes out of the tree. I want to drink this stuff on a daily basis. It’s like coconut water. Very, very lightly maple flavored, and very refreshing.

We went inside to peek at the syrup boiling apparatus. It was pretty much the best sauna ever.

And got a few samples. Of maple syrup (although they were in the small cups I associate with Jello shots). My favorite was the commercial grade dark variety, but they didn’t have any for sale at the moment (although they hoped to have some at the end of the season). It was so deeply flavored and had tons of caramel tones. OMG, are you thinking what I’m thinking? Maple Syrup Jell-O Shots!

They had a small table with some syurp to purchase. And thank goodness, they also took credit cards. I bought a quart of Grade A dark amber syrup for $17. I thought that was a pretty good price. Usually I balk at maple syrup prices, but I thought that was reasonable. Albany John (the maple syrup lover in our house) showed remarkable restraint and didn’t crack it open on the drive home. I’m usually of the Butterworth’s school of syrup (we all can’t be perfect), but this stuff was so good, I might be changing my tune to the real stuff.

A few days later, I used it to cure some salmon for hot smoking. Super easy. Slather salmon with maple syrup and some kosher salt, let sit for a day in the fridge. Put in stove top smoker for about an hour at 200F. Nom.

CHICKEN! I’ve been really into eating chicken lately. So I marinated two legs, and just rubbed some salt on the others. Oh, and then I smoked it with some tea and rice and whatevs. After that, it was a quick pop in the broiler to crisp things up. Not too shabby.

I used my smoker, but you could just as easily line a wok or large pan with foil and do the same thing. I used one of these baggies of “Spice for Spiced Food” plus about 10 tea bags of Oolong tea, brown rice, and sugar. Not sure how necessary the sugar was, but every recipe I looked at called for it. The oolong was shitty and super finely ground and bitter. Next time I’ll use green tea or jasmine. Preferably better leaves, too.

Chicken two ways. On the left in a baggie are legs that have been marinating in a mixture of maltose, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, black vinegar (chiangking), and rice wine vinegar. You could easily use sugar or honey in place of maltose. I’m just trying to use up the maltose I have.

On the right are chicken legs rubbed with kosher salt, a dash of sugar, and crushed white pepper & Sichuan peppercorns. They sat in the fridge for about an hour before I smoked them.

Smoked, broiled, and purdy. Overall, it wasn’t too bad. But next time I’d try different leaves since they didn’t really taste like tea (but they did taste smoked).

My throat is a little scratchy now. Blah. But the chicken was pretty worth it.