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Best and Last

July 29, 2013

We’re down to the last few days. I pull out of here on Wednesday. And I’ve been continuing my goodbye tour. We had a last taste of Crisan on Saturday. Friday I made it to the Cookie Factory and Gus’s.

But at home we’ve now packed all the plates. We’re eating off paper for the last meals at home. And I don’t expect to be using too many more of them since today my job is to pack up the cookware.

That means last night was our last homemade dinner in this house for a year. And I think I did an impressive job at using up a lot of delicious odds and ends. I’ll tell you about that. But I also need to weigh in on this Metroland Best of the Capital Region Dining list too.

However, given the limitations of my remaining time, that will have to be in lightning round style.

Here were the odds and ends that I had at my disposal:

Frozen sweet peas
Two cans of diced tomatoes
One can of crushed tomatoes
A brick of frozen organic spinach
Homemade chicken stock
Two strips of happy bacon
An end of happy guanciale
A quarter box of orzo
Two boxes of whole wheat rotini
A few herbs and spices
A few garlic cloves
Toasted pumpin seed oil
Olive oil dregs
Organic butter

Yeah, it was a carb fest. But at least I thought ahead. I took the two cans of diced tomatoes and oven dried them overnight last week on the oven’s lowest setting with some oregano, marjoram and olive oil. They turned into tomato candy. So today they went into the orzo cooked in chicken stock, with some sweet peas and bacon. That was my favorite thing. Smokey, sweet, savory, with the pop of peas, the chew of bacon, and the comforting slipperiness of the orzo.

But I knew the kids might not go for that. For them, I made the rotini with a simple tomato sauce from the ground tomatoes. They topped it with some parm-reg. Little Miss Fussy still rejects red sauce and simply wants butter and parm-reg. Luckily for her, she’s stlll growing, and that’s delicious. So I gladly entertain her request.

Honestly, I have no idea how the frozen spinach came into my life. I think once upon a time I had hoped to do something with it and ricotta. Perhaps it was an attempt to sneak some green vegetables into the kids’ diet. But dammit, I brought this into the house, and I was hellbent on not wasting it. So I boiled the bag, drained it, and sauteed it with some olive oil, garlic and some crispy lardons of guanciale. Then I dressed the whole thing with a little toasted pumpkin seed oil. Yes, it would have been better with fresh spinach. However, dark bitter greens with toasted seed oils are a pretty spectacular pairing. And pork only punches it up.

I didn’t even care that the kids didn’t go for that either. It just meant more delicious things for me.

Now how about Metroland’s Best? Did you remember Madeline Kahn’s scene in History of the World Part I where she was selecting her escort for the midnight orgy? No? Well, that’s kind of what I was thinking about as I reviewed these selections. Although, I went a bit further on some than just a simple no or yes. But I think you get the point.

At least the list isn’t without its bright spots. Still, I would like to see a list by the local alternative newsweekly to reflect actual good food. To say the pastrami at Nosh, “can’t be beat” suggests the editor has never had a good pastrami sandwich. And for this new deli to get the honor of Best New Restaurant on the strength of their mediocre sandwich is a complete head scratcher. I wish I had time to go into the details of each disagreement. Instead you can check out my own picks on the Recommendations tab. And for now, just picture me as Madeline Kahn. Ready?

NO – Best Restaurant – Café Capriccio
NO – Best New Restaurant – Nosh
NO – Best Continental – The Scrimshaw
NO – Best International – Sage Bistro
NO – Best Old American – The Wishing Well
YES – Best New American – New World Bistro Bar
YES – Best Steakhouse – The Bear’s Steakhouse
EH – Best French – The Epicurean
NO – Best Gourmet Italian – Grappa ’72
NO – Best Family Italian – Testo’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza Parlor
NO (CRIME AGAINST FOOD) – Best Japanese Steakhouse – Koto
NO (SAD IF TRUE) – Best Vietnamese – Pho Yum
NO – Best Thai – Capital Thai
NO (THIS CATEGORY HURTS) – Best Asian Buffet – Hibachi X
NO – Best Pan-Asian – Sushi Thai Garden
NO – Best Chinese – Shining Rainbow
YES – Best Pizza (Classic) – Defazio’s
YES (PROBABLY) – Best Pizza (Neapolitan) – Capriccio Saratoga
NO – Best Diner – Betty Boop’s Diner
NO – Best Burgers – Oliver’s Cafe
WHO? – Best Hot Dogs – Saratoga Awesome Dogs
NO (EVER HEAR OF SWEET SUE?) – Best Lunch (Troy) – Famous Lunch
YES – Best Lunch (Schenectady) – Peter Pause Restaurant
OKAY – Best Lunch (Albany) – Iron Gate
NO – Best Breakfast – Café Madison
FOR WHO? – Best Late-Night Dining – The Point Restaurant & Lounge
SURE – Best Restaurant/Bar Empire – BMT Management
YES – Best Polish – Muza
OKAY – Best Indian – Karavalli
YES – Best Moroccan – Tara Kitchen
ALRIGHT – Best Mediterranean – Ali Baba
OKAY – Best Middle Eastern – Garlic Lovers Corner
NO – Best Vegetarian – Antipasto’s Vegetarian Bistro and Wine Bar
NO – Best Mexican – Salsa Latino
YES – Best Caribbean – Orchid’s
YES – Best Wine Bar – Charles F. Lucas Confectionary and Wine Bar
OKAY – Best Fried Chicken – Hattie’s Restaurant
REALLY? – Best Barbecue – The Pig Pit
NO – Best Greek – Athos Restaurant
NO – Best Outdoor Dining – West Capitol Park Vendors
YES – Best Outdoor Drinking – City Beer Hall
OKAY – Best Cheap Eats – Gus’s Hot Dogs
HUH? – Best Nachos – El Loco Mexican Cafe
NO – Best Ice Cream Joint – Moxie’s
SURE – Best Cheesecake – Cheesecake Machismo
YES – Best Desserts – Crisan
GETTING BETTER – Best Coffeehouse – Uncommon Grounds
NO – Best Bagels – Uncommon Grounds
SURE – Best Subs – Andy’s Italian Food & Deli
FOR INSULIN SHOCK – Best Sandwich for kids – Illium Café (Crispy Peanut Butter & Jelly)
NO – Best-Kept Secret – Bros. Tacos
NO – Best Meal Worth a Drive – Jake Moon Restaurant and Cafe
UM, DRUTHERS? – Best Pub (Brew) – Brown’s Brewing Company
YES – Best Pub (New) – Finnbar’s Pub
YES – Best Pub (Belgian-Style) – The Merry Monk
WHO? Best Pub (Small-Town) – Main Street Public House
CHATHAM? – Best Margarita – Destino

“I love quick-time harch.”


6 Comments leave one →
  1. Bob W. permalink
    July 29, 2013 11:30 am

    If that ends up being your last youtube link before you set sail, you’re going out on a high note. Thanks for the morning laugh.

  2. July 29, 2013 11:52 am

    I wish I had this adult, measured reaction to the Metroland this week.

  3. July 29, 2013 11:54 am

    Thanks for cutting to the chase on the Metroland poll. I don’t think most of the choices deserve the courtesy of a longer explanation. Your toiling in the vineyards of the Cap District have not been in vain, yet there are many more pests to be eradicated on your return.

    One detail, Awesome Dog is a food truck in the parking lot of the magnificent E.B.I. beer store in Saratoga. Nothing wrong with it, though I never thought of it as any better than a Stewart’s Deli Dog…

  4. Eric Scheirer Stott permalink
    July 29, 2013 11:59 am

    Saratoga Awesome Dogs is a food cart on Excelsior Ave in the parking lot of Saratoga Hardware – they started out as a pushcart on Lake Ave. They ARE damm good hot dogs!

  5. Jessica R permalink
    July 29, 2013 12:17 pm

    What is your choice for best Greek in the area? It’s not noted on your recommendations tab. I think Athos is a good choice.

  6. July 29, 2013 12:56 pm

    When I saw Madeline Kahn, I thought you were gonna go with “flames… flames, on the side of my face…” :)

    Saratoga Awesome Dogs are pretty decent dogs. They’re a cart in the parking lot of EBI Beverages, just off of the Route 50 arterial.

    And best barbecue is so, so subjective — I think I’ve figured out that any “best” in that category is pretty useless, ’cause it depends on what kind of barbecue you like. I’m not going to say that the sauce-dependent kind is inferior, for instance, ’cause it’s a valid option: It’s just not the option I personally like.

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