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Jess X Returns

July 22, 2015

Usually when people come into town, I like to show them the Capital Region classics. Mostly, those are the old and odd things that exist here and almost no place else in the country. But on Saturday, Jessica Pasko is coming back from almost two years away in Santa Cruz.

Jess is fantastic. I probably first bumped into her on Yelp, where she was writing as the anonymous woman of mystery, Jess X. At some point she must have changed her profile, because now it’s the much more mundane Jess P. But she was also the first AOA famous writer I met. Jess always had a great sense of taste and wrote a bunch of the early food columns before they became Eat This! and I took over the feature years later.

Of course, she was an actual journalist and worked for the AP and the local papers before heading west. It’s always rough to lose young and interesting members of the local community who want to see Albany rise to new heights.

And while it would be great to have Jess back for good, we’ll take what we can get. AOA recently asked its readers (on her behalf) what are some of the “can’t miss” new things to check out. So I thought I’d jot down my thoughts here and save some real estate on AOA for those who are good at writing short answers to easy questions.

My answers tend to go a bit long.

Jess has a week. She arrives on Saturday. So I’m hoping that means Saturday to Saturday. Because if she doesn’t get a Friday night, then she’s going to miss an exciting new development in her beloved DelSo.

Granted, I’ve never been able to attend one of The Cheese Traveler’s Friday night cookouts, but the menus have looked amazing, there’s now wine and beer to accompany the food, and afterward Emack & Bolio’s up the street has its Friday night concert series. Summer Fridays in the DelSo sound almost too good to be real.

Wednesday would be a great day for Jess to check out the Warehouse district. That’s purely for selfish reasons, because on that night I’ll be attending an unofficial Yelp event. Anyone is welcome to come. But you have to RSVP. It should even be good for those who have to eat gluten-free.

The Warehouse district has changed the most. It’s worth a peek to see the iconic Miss Albany in her current role as a ramen noodle bar. But the area has blossomed. It’s a good night to check out Nine Pin too as they will have a food truck out for Dine’n at Nine Pin. Of course she could peek into Druthers and bemoan the lack of a kickass patio like they have in Saratoga Springs. And now a summer night at the Warehouse district wouldn’t be complete without a stop in to Huck Finn’s Playland (just so long as you got there before 9pm).

That means Troy has to be Thursday. Otherwise, Jess would miss out on Peck’s Arcade. Which, of course, isn’t the only thing that’s changed in Troy over the past two years. I think Jess would do well to do a bar crawl and grab a bite at each excellent place along the way, including but not limited to The Shop, Slidin’ Dirty, and The Ruck (which is recently renovated with an overhauled menu).

Is there gluten in boba tea? Because I hear good things about Lucky Corner, and it’s cool that Troy also now has a bona fide Taiwanese place.

Frankly, I would take another day to do some mall hopping too. Both Colonie Center and Crossgates are totally different than they were a couple years ago.

Whole Foods was a game changer. And it brought in tow the Tesla supercharging station. Plus now there’s going to be a Nordstrom Rack? Compared to Northern California, this isn’t world class shopping, but for someone who left the area, this is a great time to watch the malls in transition. How many Whole Foods have you seen that are in the same building as a dollar store?

Crossgates, too, has fundamentally changed with the Lord & Taylor and Dave & Buster’s. Less drastic were the additions of Texas de Brazil and World of Beer. But there are some much fancier stores in that mall now. Although even with all these changes, it still has one foot firmly rooted in the Crossgates of the past.

I know Jess is planning to hit the Lark Street Wine Bar, so hopefully she’ll pop into Stacks while she’s out there for one of their iced coffee “cocktails.” And maybe if she’s gotten bit by the coffee culture in Santa Cruz, she can check out some of the brewing equipment they have at Brew.

If I didn’t know Jess lived a gluten-free life, I’d suggest checking out all the new places for donuts and bagels. And on these trips there’s rarely time to take in a movie, so the renovated Madison is probably out.

Mrs. Fussy and I always enjoy visiting grocery stores when we travel. Price Chopper’s Market Bistro in Latham might satisfy that curiousity. I still haven’t been to one of the Market 32 locations, but I bet that would be fascinating too.

I totally left out Schenectady. The Electric City now has the BBQ joint which is the darling of the local food scene in The Memphis King. Latham now has Ayelada which I need to return to, because I still haven’t been able to shake that memory of Lloyd Spear’s lavender honey. Saratoga Springs has 15 Church, both inside and out.

Surely, I’m still forgetting things. Mostly because I have lost track of time. I have no idea what was open two years ago and what wasn’t. I blame the sabbatical, but it’s probably just a function of getting old.

Regardless, I hope this helps Jess out, and I really hope she can hit the Warehouse District on Wednesday.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2015 9:17 am

    Just a friendly reminder to Jess that most of pure menu at pecks can be made gluten free and the entire dessert menu is gluten free. Also say hi if you come in!

    Lucky corner – wish they would dish the dumpy American stuff as its all pretty bad and focus on the Taiwanese stuff which isn’t too bad, but could use a little work. Braised pork is good – but beware the standard braise for this prep is soy + water and aromatics…so it probably has gluten.

  2. July 22, 2015 9:19 am

    That’s supposed to say the instead of pure and ditch instead of dish…..I really need to proofread when using iOS (autocorrect)

  3. RogerK permalink
    July 22, 2015 11:28 am

    Dan, This may be helpful to you in the future. Steve Barnes does an annual complication of food businesses that opened and closed over the previous year. Here’s his link to 2014 http://blog.timesunion.com/tablehopping/46044/restaurants-that-opened-closed-in-2014/

    And for 2013
    http://blog.timesunion.com/tablehopping/41829/restaurant-openings-closings-for-2013/

  4. Jessica R W permalink
    July 22, 2015 1:22 pm

    In Troy, for those who do lead a gluten-lifestyle, be sure to stop into Rare Form brewery too.

    For brunch, we love the new Whistling Kettle location.

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