Friday, February 24, 2012

The War of the Wings

The fourth annual Watervliet Wing Wars is about to go down on March 3 to decide the restaurant with the best chicken wings.  Wing fanatics will decide the victor of the Wing Wars by voting.  Over a dozen restaurants from Watervliet, Troy and Cohoes will be serving up their best wings.  

The war will go down on Saturday, March 3, from 3-7 p.m, at the Watervliet AOH, 1021 9th Ave.  Admission is $15 at the door, the proceeds help fund the Watervliet Civic Center.  You can also expect a cash bar, live DJ and a raffle, hope to see you there.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Surprise Pick at Mac 'N Cheese Bowl

I always enjoy attending the Mac ‘N Cheese Bowl. It’s a fun event and the Regional Food Bank is a worthy cause. This year, some 2,000 people came to taste the cheesy delights put forth by roughly 30 entrants.

I am always a sucker for Valente’s. They consistently win and they deserve it.  I have actually ordered Mac ‘N Cheese in the restaurant, something I would not do at many other places. However, this year, another famous local restaurant brand caught the corner of my eye and I had to try.

As I approached the Latham ’76 Diner table, the first thoughts that rang through my head were, “It’s not 3:00am and I’m sober.”  The thoughts alone served as a palate cleanser.

Here’s why they rocked: Homemade, traditional, old school, just like mom would make.  That’s it. Simple.  Just like the ham & cheese omelette I used to rock at 3:00am.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Hunt for a New Favorite Diner

I'm sure all you folks have heard the news about the closing of the Miss Albany Diner.  I miss her already and its only been a couple of weeks.  As I said last week, now I am going to have to go find a new #1 diner in the Capital Region.  I know it's going to be tough, but I'm just going to have to move on without her.  I am open for suggestions and I plan to try out some new places here in the Capital Region that I haven't had the chance to experience yet.  Feel free to leave a comment and throw out some suggestions for me, I will update everyone as I embark on this journey to find my new favorite Capital Region diner.  I think this is the best thing for me, I just have to move on without her and check out other places.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The loss of my beloved Miss Albany

Average Joe is not ashamed to say he cried on Friday.  No, it wasn't because I watched Old Yeller or was on the wrong end of a basketball to the groin - I cried because of the loss of the Miss Albany Diner.  One of my love affairs in life, outside of Mrs. Average Joe, cheese, Star Wars, vintage snowmobiles and the 1986 New York Mets, is diners.  

The Miss Albany Diner is - was my favorite in the area.  The property was purchased by Matt Baumgartner and partners.  The rights to the name and recipes will remain with the Brown family, which owned the diner since 1988.  Mr. Baumgartner certainly knows his stuff when it comes to cutting-edge restaurants and great food.  While he has said he does not have any plans yet for the space, I'm sure it will be another home run.  He has made it clear that he is not getting into the diner business.  While I absolutely look forward to Mr. Baumgartner's next creation, it is with a heavy heart as the Miss Albany Diner is no-more.  To the Brown Family - thanks for memories, the great food and a cool place with a friendly atmosphere.    

Now I am going to have to go out and find a new #1 diner in the Region.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Testing out Testo's Italian Restaurant

chicken parmigiana with spaghetti
Checkered tables, cozy dining room and Italian background music. All that was missing was my 78-year-old Nonna shouting "Mangia, Mangia!" across the room.

I was first introduced to Testo's through their bottled tomato sauces--traditional and meat-flavored--sold at various markets throughout the region. My quest to sample all locally-made sauces was put on an indefinite hold when I had theirs--the smooth, flavorful gravy met all my extremely fickle criteria and earned top spot. After buying dozens of jars, we decided it was time for the complete experience, and headed to the Lansingburgh restaurant.

In a word, perfetto.  This weekday night was quiet, with a few patrons spread out across the nicely sized space. A man who appeared to be the head chef sat down to chat for a few minutes with people I assume were usuals - I like seeing that.

I started with crisp, crunchy salad with tasty Parmesan Peppercorn dressing, followed by the $2.50 meatballs (2 per order). I like my meatballs simple, round, and easy to look at -- not a pin cushion with too many ingredients poking out on all sides, these were just right. Only thing I would have changed was the pool of sauce they came in. Great sauce, but too much of it at once.

Next came my baked ziti (Wednesday's special at $9.50, salad included). It was literally still bubbling as it got placed down. The meat-flavored sauce was thick and addicting. The pasta was cooked to perfection and the dish included just the right amount of mozzarella. Mrs. Average Joe equally enjoyed her chicken parmigiana with spaghetti ($12.75) and mozzarella sticks to start ($6.50). Size-wise, the balance was again spot on. Not too small, not too big, but just enough to have a few leftovers for lunch the next day. Or in our case....breakfast.

We'll be back, for sure--and you should try it, too. [Insert stubborn Italian hand gesture here]

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Meet The Meat

What's the first thing that pops into your head when thinking of artisanal meats and gourmet German food? I'm sure your thoughts don't wander to the reaches of the City of Albany. 

Rolf's Pork Store has been curing, smoking, cutting and serving some of the finest meats in the region for over 50 years.  Want a ham? Got it. Rabbit? Got it.  All the German works straight from the Deutschland? You bet they got it.  Plus, shame on you for having to learn it here first.  On a recent weekend, a friend and I stopped in to witness their craftsmanship first hand and we literally apologized to our stomachs for not coming here earlier.  Oh the shame...

This is a place foodies, blue collar and any walk of Joe from the street would love.  Pam Anderson and PETA, not so much.  Take the time to stop in and support this locally owned butcher.  They take great pride in offering a great variety of food for our area and do it in a way that has since been a lost art form in food service.  Owner, Glen Eggelhoefer, takes the time to talk, give samples and provide you with a great meal for the family, your crew of friends or a nice combo to make an enjoyable meal memorable.

Check them out.  You will not be disappointed.  As the old Saturday Night Live skit with Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon as Hans and Franz would say, "Hear me now und believe me later..."

For more info, click on their web site: