Friday, December 27, 2013

Oh, Illium

Average Joe has been more or less out of commission for a few weeks, battling a cold that is oh-so-cold in its ability to stick around.

What better way to banish the sickness than a hot, satisfying breakfast? That was the idea for hitting up Illium Cafe, in Monument Square in Troy, but when this Joe awoke from a deep coma and rolled over to look at the alarm clock, thoughts of home fries and omelets were banished.

Luckily, Illium serves up a great lunch menu in addition to its breakfast fare. Instead of selecting a hearty sandwich, I chose a pear salad for this trip ($9.25). This turned out to be a great decision. Candied macadamia nuts were a great compliment to Roquefort cheese, the name of which made me feel contentedly classy.

My companion chose a quesadilla that was loaded with scallops, roasted red peppers and more fancy cheese ($11.50). I lied about feeling much better as I stabbed a chunk with my fork, and the result was good enough to make me feel guilty about playing the role of Patient Zero on our lunch date.

Illium serves up creative foods made with great ingredients, at a price that satisfies as much as the eats. They're closed down for the holidays, but will open back up January 2.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Average Joe vs. The "Big Ass Burger"

A few weeks back I found myself in downtown Albany looking for a good bite to eat, and wanted something different than the usual options that you find around Pearl Street and Broadway, so I decided to try this little place called McGeary’s Pub in 4 Clinton Square. The place is tiny, but it has a good laid-back atmosphere and the staff was extremely nice. I was glad that the dining area was in the back of the restaurant, separate from the bar, so the noise was dulled and created a classy restaurant ambiance.

I saw something that caught my eye on the menu titled “Big Ass Burger” it was apparently a double decker burger that the waitress described as “incredibly huge” and a classic at McGeary’s. Based on her reaction I knew I had to try this burger, or at least see how big it is. With surprisingly fast service on a Friday night, the burger came out quickly, and by the looks of it I immediately understood where the name “Big Ass Burger” came from. The burger was so huge the cook provided me with a steak knife to cut it into sections in order to eat it.  The burger, living up to its name was also very satisfying, and probably the juiciest burger I have ever eaten. The best part about the “Big Ass Burger” is that you can add as many toppings to it as you would like, but I recommend you do it cautiously since the burger is so gigantic you will most likely be bringing half of it home with you.

Since it is a pub atmosphere their specialty is bar food, but I did also try some of my friends fried chicken dinner, which was also exceptionally delicious. If you are feeling in a daring mood to take on the “Big Ass Burger” or just want a casual dinner with a few friends at a reasonable price you should definitely stop by McGeary’s Pub the next time you visit downtown Albany.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Inside out, upside down, whatever…it's the best.

Average Joe found himself in Cohoes a couple of weeks back, taking in a matinee production at the famed Cohoes Music Hall on a Saturday afternoon with a gaggle of the Average family, several of whom were not from the area. 

“Take us somewhere local and special,” says the out-of-towners.  After a quick huddle, we caravanned down 787, ventured through the back streets of Troy and landed at 71 Division Street.  Red Front, a Troy institution for more than 50 years. (There’s a second location in Scotia, but let’s focus on the original.)

There are red-sauce palaces all over the Capital Region.  Many of them are very, very good.  Some are mom and pop joints, some are high-end establishments.  Few can surpass the staying power of Red Front and fewer still have the legions of fans that Red Front has.

Maybe it’s the diverse and well-priced menu full of Italian staples – from appetizers like fried calamari (tender and not greasy) and fried ravioli (to die for) to pasta, steak, chicken, subs, salads…whatever a big group could possibly want.

But I think it’s the pizza.  It’s not the traditional, Neapolitan version.  It’s rectangular like Sicialian, but with a light and airy crust.  And then there’s the famous Red Front COB pizza.  COB stands for Cheese On Bottom.  A little slice (ok, 6, 8, 12 or more slices) of heaven in Troy.  It’s Red Front’s red sauce that makes it work.  A little lighter and sweeter than most, it works perfectly on the COB.

And it’s worked perfectly for thousands of raving fans over the years.  Make it work for you soon.  (But watch out for the soda bill…there’s no free refills.)

Tell them Average Joe sent you.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Talking Turkey

You can consider this post the Joe family holiday special, let me tell you about my Thanksgiving. Do you know what I'm thankful for this year? Take-out turkey.

Besides their taste in music,  all other factors proved Caramel and Popcorn were two great turkeys and I'm glad they lived through this turkey day. According to reports Caramel's favorite tune was "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga and Popcorn enjoyed Beyonce's "Halo." Unfortunately the pardoning, and two less turkeys out there in the fields just made it harder for grandpa Joe to bring home a bird this year. grandpa Joe is a master game hunter and I usually don't brag about him, but I want him to get his spirits back up after falling short this season. 

We knew the big day was coming. I was hosting on Thursday, I had grandpa and grandma Joe coming over along with aunt Joedy from all the way down south. I was banking on grandpa Joe, now I had no turkey and no real plans, I'm not much of a grocery shopper or dinner planner. As you know, I eat out most of the time. 

After some extensive research and my knowledge of Capital Region food options, I decided on going another route to prepare this year. It was up to me to save Thanksgiving and Dinosaur BBQ had everything I needed a few days in advance too. 

A quick heat-up and the turkey deluxe special fed the Joe family and then some, I finished leftovers today. We lost a little bit of the freshness from this approach, grandma Joe also brought some extra chicken stock which we used to moisten the bird a little more, but overall it was a good dinner. 

Average Joe saved Thanksgiving, lets see how we do the rest of the holiday season.