Monday, February 27, 2012

Saugerties, NY: New World Home Cooking

New World Home Cooking is one of my favorite Hudson Valley restaurants (I am yet to try Ric Orlando's New World Bistro in Albany, which apparently has a larger menu). The restaurant is painted in bright colors, the lights are dim (and Christmas lights bright), and it is always inviting. The menu has plenty of choices for the unadventurous eater, vegetarian/vegan, and those limited to a gluten free diet as well as choices for someone who wants to try something new.

Mr. D. and I visited on Saturday night; we should have planned ahead and made a reservation, but they were able to seat us within ten minutes or so. There are windows into the kitchen and I was pleasantly surprised to see Ric Orlando himself on the line (he came out later [for the three minutes I was in the restroom] to say hello to the table next to ours).

Note: Photos do not do any of my food justice, but I felt bad using my flash in the dining room.

So, there's this silly Food Challenge list of 100 foods to eat before you die circulating on Facebook. One of the foods both Mr. D. and I were both missing was sweetbreads; we were happy to see it on the NWHC menu (served in a lemon caper sauce with eggplant mash) and ordered it, despite Mr. D.'s quick google search and "you know these aren't breads. Or sweet. Right?" Epicurious says that "sweetbreads are the thymus glands of veal, young beef, lamb and pork" - so throat, gullet, neck (it can also be pancreas - heart, stomach, or belly). In short, I have no idea what we ate, but it was absolutely delicious. The sauce was so perfect, in fact, that we wound up using our table bread to soak it up.

For entrees, I chose the Korean fried chicken (with brown rice and cucumber kim chee, which was served in a very cute little jar) and Mr. D. had jerk chicken. Mr. Orlando provides a spiciness/hotness scale; Mr. D. chose a 3 for his chicken, but the Korean fried chicken was a 7 (the ratings were pretty accurate). I tend to like my spice a bit milder, but it was delicious nonetheless (just be careful eating the cucumber...I spilled the sauce all over my shirt each time I took a bite). The jerk chicken was also tasty, served with pineapple rice and greens.

Mr. D. decided he did not want dessert, but after I ordered the ginger crème brûlée (they feature daily specials and they come in mini-portions), he naturally ate half of it anyway. Crème brûlée is one of my favorite desserts; it's enough to cleanse one's palate at the end of a meal and provide some sweetness, but it's not heavy enough to bring you to the unhappy land of fullness. The ginger was perfect after my level-7 chicken and I could not have asked for a better meal.

Next, we will have to get to the New World Bistro Bar in Albany. If you are reading this, you should make that a priority as well.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Albany, NY: Mac & Cheese Bowl

Now in its third year, the Mac & Cheese Bowl features samples of macaroni and cheese from area restaurants, competing for either the Judge's choice or People's choice awards. Proceeds ($15 entry fee) go to the Food Bank, which is getting $35k from this year's event.

Here is some random advice: the ballroom gets crowded. Very crowded. Imagine walking through midtown Manhattan, but give all those imaginary tourists little plastic cups of mac & cheese that they have to stop to get more of every few feet. With this in mind, please don't bring your kids in strollers. Get there early (the line was quite long at 11am) and we saw some pros who brought small trays (think of tray like containers your Chinese takeout comes in sometimes) so they could get in, collect some samples, and then go find a corner to enjoy them in. We started out getting our own sample cups, but by the end of the hour we spent there, four of us were sharing one sample.

The mac & cheese ranged from simply traditional to fancy (Yono's offered "Duck, Duck...Goose" - Long Island Duck Confit, Goose & Port Wine Sausage & Hudson Valley Foie Gras Mornay Sauce). I tasted mac & cheese from 29 Capital Region restaurants; some tasted like it came from a box and others were closer to the fancy side of the spectrum, mixed with nacho toppings, hot sauce, bison, lobster, pork, and, of course, bacon (well, not one with all of those things in one dish, but you get the idea).

My favorites were:
  1. 677 Prime's Double Bacon Cheeseburger mac & cheese

  2. Jack's Oyster House's Spanish-style Mac-n-Cheese with Manchego, Chorizo, Piquillo Peppers and a Potato Chip Chive crust

  3. Chez Mike's Cheddar-Apple “Kugel” mac & cheese

Now, I just wish that the weekend after, these restaurants would add these to the menu! I am dying for my own full portion from Jack's. Instead, I think I'll be trying this recipe I found for Cajun Mac & Cheese (mac & cheese spice, andouille sausage, and peppers). And the left-overs are definitely being made into fried mac & cheese bites.

I'm already looking forward to next year and am dreaming of staggered entry times and post-event macaroni menus.

See also: Results at TableHopping