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The Better Part of 2013

December 30, 2013

Tomorrow is already New Year’s Eve. Man, I’m behind the ball. I’m leaving Pennsylvania today and will need to get cooking once I get home. There will be people coming over Tuesday at 6 o’clock and I don’t even have a single bottle of sparkling wine in the house.

Hopefully you aren’t nearly so ill prepared for whatever festivities you have planned. My plan had been to share some thoughts on the sparkling wines of the world in advance of the holiday. Maybe I can do that tomorrow.

But after realizing that last week’s rundown of the top stories from the past year was mostly gripes, I wanted to do another list that focused on more of the happier times. And 2013 was full of them. Maybe a few of these will jog your memory.

January 4 – Serendipity
Starting out the year with the discovery of this Real Actors Read Yelp video of the review I wrote about Dante’s Frozen Yogurt in Troy was amazing. The funny thing is that after the initial review, Dante’s changed their troublesome spoons and subsequently vaulted up to my favorite fro yo joint in the region.

January 14 – Don’t Play Cards With Seitan
Now it’s kind of beyond the point, but at the beginning of last year when I was starting an almost vegan diet, I was thrilled with the discovery of the seitan Reuben at All Good Bakers. Hopefully this post helps to commemorate the community that formed around that restaurant. I’m looking forward to something else coming along and filling that niche.

March 18 – The Joy of Troy
Troy’s a great eating town. I love the old school Italian bakeries, the mini hot dogs unique to the region (on both sides of the river), and the newer places influenced by higher quality ingredients and the year long local bounty of the farmers market. This is the small story of one very pleasant day eating my way around the city.

April 12 – Dining Out For Life: Mingle
I had fallen for the Korean lunch dishes at Mingle before sitting down to interview Jose about his family’s restaurant and his history growing up in Albany. It was an amazing story, and it gave me a much better sense for the generosity that runs through this restaurant.

April 19 – DOFL: The Orchard Tavern
Mike and Brendan Noonan put Albany’s tavern culture into words. After sitting down with them, so much more about the local dining scene made sense. And this interview gave me a chance to look behind the scenes at how an Old Forge-like style of pizza has been made in Albany the same way for over seventy years.

May 10 – The Capital Region’s Good Side
This was a lot of fun. I got to sit on a panel discussion with Ric Orlando, Rebekah Rice from Nine Mile Farm and Sharon DiLorenzo from Capital District Community Gardens to talk about food in the Capital Region. And it inspired me to finally come up with a list of local recommendations. Hopefully, you’ve seen this and are sharing some of the best places around with your friends and loved ones.

June 5 – Gonzo Gelato Grazing
The annual Tour de Ice Cream went into gelato mode with mixed results. Yes, there was a winner. But you really need to read the results closely, because there was a lot to love. Well, except at one Saratoga Springs location. I guess we had to try it to know for sure. On the up side, I finally found something to like about Villa Italia.

June 6 – Of Chefs and Eaters
It almost seems sometimes that Albanians demand bad food. Actually, I have it on great authority (from restaurant owners and chefs) that this is indeed the case. So it was refreshing to see All Good Bakers launch a chef created menu where like Chez Panisse the eater gets no choice in what they are served for dinner. I’m going to choose to be glad that it happened, instead of disappointed that now it’s gone.

June 25 – Egg Battle: Stewart’s vs. HWFC
Everyone has the things that matter to them most. When it comes to eggs, ideally I want to get them hours after they’ve been laid. And as it turns out, I’m willing to give up a bit of integrity to get them super fast from the chicken. Here was the test, complete with pictures, that helped me feel even more at home at this Capital Region institution.

July 16 – One Day in Albany
Summer is tourist season up in Saratoga Springs. And you know what I hate? I hate the notion that people from larger metros don’t get off the highway when they approach Albany because they’ve written off the city entirely. The post is a little outdated now, but I put together a perfectly lovely itinerary for those brave enough to experience a little of what Albany has to offer.

July 18 – Late to the Party
In general I try to stay on top of great food finds. Sometimes I lag behind. When I wrote of the Gastropub’s burger night and cocktails at the Speakeasy back in July, neither of these places were new. But I had to weigh in and validate that the acclaim each had been receiving was more than just hype.

July 19 – Leaving a Good Impression
There were a few things I wanted to do before leaving. One was to make good on my promise of a special vegetarian meal at Ala Shanghai. This was an incredible experience, followed by an incredible evening of iced coffee and cookies at the Lucas Confectionery. It’s always good to leave town on a high note.

August 14 – Troy’s Wings on Parade
I wouldn’t have believed it had I not read it on my own blog. But in a head to head competition, The Ale House beat The Ruck in a Troy Buffalo-style chicken wing throwdown. There have been tales of variability in the wings at The Ruck (which was my personal favorite going into this battle). Still, it was close. And your mileage may vary.

October 2 – Wegmans Wows
Sorry to do this to those without a Wegmans nearby, but more than anything else I have been impressed with the customer service at this beloved institution. Still, the bulk of my shopping is done at Trader Joe’s with a smattering of purchases at other markets. But Wegmans has earned its spot in the weekly rotation.

October 9 – The Best Donuts Off the Beaten Path
The 2013 Tour de Cider Donut went off in my absence. Man, I would have loved to be there. But Stanford Steph led the charge, and I was able to tabulate the results from New Jersey. It wouldn’t be fall in the Capital Region without a cider donut, and once again I was glad to help people find out where to get the tastiest ones.

November 25 – Oh Snow You Don’t
You know what would make the Capital Region a whole lot better? If all of those outside patios could be used year round. Well Vic and Heather collectively flipped their middle fingers at Mother Nature and put up a retractable glass roof over their beautiful back patio and now have four season outdoor seating. Man, I wish I could be there to watch the snow fall with a nice hot mug of Blue Bottle coffee.

December 9 – Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ
This was a great day to close out a great year: cappuccino, pinball, espresso, pinball and fancy vegan cuisine. All of this in the rejuvenated remains of a recently crumbling, but once magnificent, seaside New Jersey town.

All I can say is that 2014 better bring its a-game, because 2013 is going to be hard to beat.

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