“I wish there was a tree like pizza, I would be there all day”

Anonymous

My name is Jessica and I’m sure I’ve admitted to this before but just to clarify: I love pizza. If there is pizza, I must have some that’s all there is to it. TastyPizzaSo, to no surprise, I tend to eat pizza for dinner a lot. It’s cheap, it’s quick, it’s delicious, and in moderation it’s actually not terrible for you. Recently I went to a pizza place that I honestly had no idea existed, Tasty Pizzeria (7 Old Mariaville Rd, Schenectady). It’s in a great location and next door to an ice cream place. They had a deal going on where you could order an 12 cut pizza for a really great price. It sounded too good to be true, but it’s pizza, it’s gonna be good, right?

We put in our order and found out it was cash only. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why small businesses do it but it’s really annoying. They had an ATM but thanks to my bank, I was charged an extra almost $5 just to get a great deal on some pizza! We ordered, we paid, nothing fancy, just got cheese and they told us it would take about 15 mins. Sure, no problem. They’re making a pizza fresh, can’t hate on that right? Luckily for us, there was an old car show outside, the weather was beautiful so we sat on the bench and waited for what we thought would be 15 mins.

About 45-60 minutes later, our pizza was finally ready. To their credit, they have the ability to order online on their website. Tasty-2We could’ve ordered it and picked it up at a certain time and not had to deal with the wait but I figured it wouldn’t be too busy and one pizza would have been quick. We finally got the pizza (nice and hot) and brought it back to eat at home. The pizza was pretty good. You can tell how good a pizza is based on their dough. Sure, the sauce is important but if you don’t start off with that solid base, the sauce isn’t going to save anything. The dough was great. I usually prefer long triangle pieces but square is what you get when you order a 12 cut. There was a little too much chew in the dough but the crunch, the consistency- all well done. The sauce as well was good. Would I consider this the best pizza I’ve ever eaten? No. Would I wait another 45-60 mins to eat it again? Hell no, they have Mealeo. Overall though, I was not disappointed and I would eat there again but, as I said, I’m ordering to pick up next time!

“The only way to get vegetables at a diner late night is to order the omelette. A feta cheese and broccoli omelette.”

Lisa Loeb

I was so excited to get an offer from City Dining Cards to try out a bunch of cards from the Capital Region deck and talk about the kinds of restaurants they have. The way they work is that you get a deck of Tops-CityDining50 cards and each one represents a different restaurant. If you spend $30, then you get $10 off of your order. Sounds great! Especially because going out to eat to dinner with friends, we can usually spend $30 pretty easily and it narrows down where you’d want to eat in the whole “I don’t care, where do you want to eat” debacle.

My goal was to use every card before they expire December 31st, 2015 but I’m going to be honest with you, that’s nearly impossible. Not only do I not go out to eat that often but when it comes down to it, $10 off of $30 gets expensive if you’re spending it every week. It’s a great idea in theory and as for the cost, all you have to do is use 3 for it to pay for itself but don’t expect to use them all. My favorite part was that these cards were restaurants I know in the area and restaurants I’ve wanted to try. The downside, it seems as if City Dining Cards has transferred its focus to an easier to organize app but after downloading it today, realized it’s not yet available in our area but oddly, on their website don’t still offer the cards as an option. This leads me to believe they’re fading them out in the 2016 edition.

The first restaurant I went to with the cards was Top’s American Bakery and Grill (351 Duanesburg Rd, Schenectady). Tops-1I’d never been to Top’s so I didn’t really know what to expect. The whole feel is very diner-y. I tried to go online to check out their menu ahead of time and it’s a broken link so the whole thing was a huge surprise to me. To start, I ordered brushetta from the appetizer menu. We tried to plan out the price of our meal to be more than $30 which is really difficult in a diner. The brushetta was really good. Everything tasted fresh, the bread wasn’t soggy- it was a great decision. Those Mediterranean flavors were perfect.

For dinner I got a kind of veggie burger that was supposed to come with a salad. The salad on the side of the plate was just kind of thrown together. It was just a huge chunk of lettuce with onions and a tomato thrown on top. Really messy. The burger itself was pretty disappointing too. The patty was really thin, especially compared to the huge roll it was on so I ended up not eating the bread. Taste-wise, it wasn’t terrible and cooked well. I was upset though that no sauce came on the burger and they didn’t tell me ahead of time. A heads up that the burger was plain would’ve been nice because then I could’ve ordered a sauce but it was hard to get a hold of a waitress after our food was delivered.

For a diner, it was okay. The food was solid, the establishment was nice, the building is a lot bigger than expected. I’ve heard that for breakfast their menu is amazing and Tops-2that’s usually when I go to diners anyway so I’ll give them a try in the morning next time and see if anything is different. In regards to the City Dining Card, it was difficult to use. I told my waitress about it when we got there, handed it to her and she didn’t know what to do about it. She called a manager and it seemed as if he didn’t know about it either. It seemed strange to me that no one knew that their restaurant had a coupon out like this and what to do with it. We ended up with a packaged cookie to-go for dessert which I did really enjoy later so though the experience was just okay for the most part, it did end on a delicious, chocolately high note.

“When you fish for love, bait with your heart, not your brain.”

Mark Twain

I’ve lived in Schenectady my whole life and I’ll admit though I have a good 26 years in the Capital Region (aside from being in college), there are many places in the area I’ve never experienced. Smiths-1I’ve kind of become a Groupon and Living Social hoarder but it’s brought me to some of the coolest places and cheaper than I ‘d usually pay for them. For example, I’m housesitting in Cohoes for the week so I figured I’d check LivingSocial and see what dinner deals they have in the area and I came across Smith’s Restaurant (171 Remsen Street, Cohoes). Spend $20 and get $40, seemed fair so I bought it and gave it a try this week.

The menu was great, perfect size. Of course, our main goal was to try to stay under $40 but hey, if I see something I like, I’m gonna want to try it. The menu was broken up into appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and a special section for cheaper items. NOTE: You can go to their menu on their website for an idea but there are a few different things and prices are a little higher.

I was going to get an appetizer but appetizer to me means dinner leftovers and I didn’t want that so the faster to dinner, the better! I decided on the Fish and Chips. Fish and Chips aren’t something I get very often but when you have a random craving, you run with it, right?Smiths-2 It was a light beer battered haddock fillets served with a tarter and cocktail sauce (I asked for both). The fish was pretty good, the batter wasn’t super light or super heavy. I was able to get through it with just my fork and the fish was perfectly flakey. Overall, it was alright. Granted, the last time I’ve had fish and chips was in Dublin, Ireland which is a-whole-nother world but this wasn’t too bad. There was nothing incredibly special, no fantastic extra flavor in the batter but it was good- same with the french fries. The service was great, our waitress was very attentive, and the building was a lot bigger than it looked from the outside. It was clean, nice and the bar area was beautiful. If I find myself in Cohoes again hungry, I’d come here again for sure. On Smith’s website, it says that it’s remained unchanged since the 1930s and normally I’d call that dated but this restaurant is timeless and I’m glad they’ve been around for this long.

“You can pour melted ice cream on regular ice cream. It’s like a sauce!”

Chris Pratt

I love ice cream. There, I said it. I love ice cream and there’s nothing anyone can do to change my mind about how delicious ice cream is. Marthas-1These hot July summer days are the perfect days to just indulge in some of the best ice cream in the Capital Region. One of my favorite ice cream places, though, is a little farther from me than I’d like but luckily I spend most of my summer in Lake George anyway.

If you find yourself in the neighborhood of Great Escape and haven’t yet stopped at Martha’s Dandee Creme (1133 US 9, Queensbury), then you’re missing out! Martha’s has been a staple in the Lake George area for more than 50 years. Before selling dandee creme, that location was home to a chicken farm. The owners, Martha and Carl Freiberger, opened a restaurant in the house that sits next to where the Martha’s ice cream stand is today. Once that restaurant prospered, they built another restaurant next door with the ice cream stand being an afterthought. The rest is delicious history! Oh, and the rooster on the sign? His name is Charlie and you can check out his story on their website. The businessMarthas-2 was sold in 1982 and then again in the late 1990s but re-purchased by previous owners in 2009.

Their ice cream flavors change daily so if you want to keep up with what they’re serving each day, like them on Facebook. I don’t really have a particular favorite flavor, I like them all but if they’re featuring salted caramel or banana/chocolate twist, don’t miss out on it!

“You can’t buy love but you can buy bagels and that’s basically the same”

Anonymous

I don’t frequent Troy as much as I like but it seems every time I go, I find myself near the Psychedelicatessen (275 River St, Troy). I’ve always wanted to stop in there and see what they have (the name draws you in enough) but I didn’t, until recently. Psychedeli-1Each bagel is made from scratch every day, hand rolled and boiled and that’s not even the part that I’m most impressed with. They proudly support local businesses, local farms, and local ranches. For some quick examples, they get butter from Cabot in Massachusetts, flour from King Arthur in Vermont, produce from Denison Farms in Schaghticoke and so many more that you can see on a map inside the store.

Not sure on what type of bagel to get? Psychedelicatessen has so many kinds to choose from: blueberry, cinnamon toast, cranberry orange, chocolate chunk, spinach parmesan, jalapeno cheddar, bacon cheddar, pesto, pumpernickel, egg, raisin, tie-dye and of course the regulars like plain, sesame, wheat, and everything. Okay, so you’ve picked your bagel, now you think you’re just gonna throw on some cream cheese and be fine, right? Wrong. Next, you have to pick from their amazing list of spreads like honey nut, honey cinnamon, onion chive, garden veggie, cucumber dill, bacon scallion, jalapeno, quark cheese, olive, among others, but my favorite was hummus. They recommended hummus my sun-dried tomato bagel and it was heaven. Besides that their hummus was exceptional, I would never have thought of putting hummus on a bagel, so glad I did!

You can’t beat the prices either- a bagel ($1.00), Psychedeli-2a bagel + cream cheese ($2.50), bagel + hummus/quark ($3.00), half-dozen ($4.50) and a baker’s dozen ($8.75). You can also get an egg sandwich ($3.85-$7.50 with lox), build your own sandwich ($7.45), get a house sandwich ($7.45-$9.00 with lox), salad ($6.55) or a delicious smoothie ($4.75).

I ended up with a sun-dried tomato bagel with hummus and a bacon cheddar bagel for the road. I’m so impressed with how fresh and delicious each bagel was and how the flavor came out in each one. The environment of a 60s tie-dyed hippy-like area made my Mom happy and the food would make anyone happy. This place is a must go-to if you’re in Troy and haven’t checked it out yet. I wish I lived closer but it’s probably best for my wallet & waist-line that I didn’t but I can’t wait to go back and try another kind of bagel!

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“The best wines are the ones we drink with friends”

Anonymous

Apologies on being behind on my blog lately. I had a great run (or lack of run, actually) when I sprained my ankle. All I had to do was lay on my couch and catch up on my blog which was awesome. Then, I recovered and realized all the things I totally forgot about or couldn’t do because of my ankle and I got behind again and I didn’t get the opportunity to talk about the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival on June 27th and 28th in Charles R. Wood Park in Lake George.

ADKWineFood

I didn’t know whether I wanted to focus a whole post on the event itself or mention it casually as I use the many, many products I bought at that event. (For a full list of participating vendors, check out my previous post) I decided to do a little of both. Overall, I had a great time. I love festivals like this that give people a chance to go to one place and try a ton of local products. The ticket prices were incredibly reasonable ($20 advanced/ $25 at the gate/ $10 for designated driver) and on Saturday, the weather was perfect. According to Adirondack Festivals LLC who put on the event, there were 2500 people over the course of two days. Given the not-so-great weather on Sunday and the fact that this is the first year, that’s awesome!

I loved the option of the Purchase Drop-Off tent, ADKWineespecially for a wine event, those bottles get heavy fast! Also, I didn’t realize what a great culinary program that SUNY Adirondack has. They were named as the designated beneficiary of the festival and I really enjoyed their tent. I learned how to make sausage during their cooking demonstrations with a KitchenAid mixer and it was incredibly flavorful. They had such great deals on some of the most delicious cookies and brownies I’ve ever tasted. I’d buy that quality in a bakery.  I loved how spacious the event was overall, I never once felt like it was crowded or I didn’t have my proper space. There was room to walk around, mingle and enjoy my wine.

My biggest issue with the event was the speed at each booth. I’ve been to a few wine festivals and this was unlike anything I’ve seen. Normally at these events, people come up to the table at their own pace and taste a bunch of wines and there’s more of a crowd at each station. That way, when a couple of people are tasting their wines, the person there can then accommodate others and more people are served at once but at this event everyone stood in lines. The person serving the wines would only accommodate those standing right in front of them and it caused long lines at each station. It led to wait times of 10-15 minutes at some. Also, I felt as if while I was up there, I could only choose one or maybe two wines since I knew the long line of people behind me. Some wineries I didn’t even get a chance to try because of the lines. I don’t know necessarily how to fix that except for maybe making it clear to each vendor that they should be serving more than one group at a time.

The other issue I had was access to food. There were the cooking demonstrations ADKWinewhich were delicious and two food trucks but I think they have the ability to have many more food options, especially with all the alcohol available. The lines at the food trucks were way too long and we ended up just eating cookies or probably trying way too many samples. I wouldn’t have minded more drink options that weren’t alcohol as well. A friend who came in as a designated driver eventually found root beer but it would’ve been good to have free or discounted beverages available to them.

This being the first year though, only gives me hope for next year’s event. As most inaugural events go, this was more of the soft opening for next year’s grand opening. Many vendors didn’t know how many people to expect and therefore ran out of product which only hurts their future business. The construction on the space will also be completed next year so there will be easier access to bathrooms. I loved this and I had a great time and ended up with a ton of bottles (thanks to Exit 9 for their cloth wine bag or that would’ve been impossible). I can’t wait to see how they step up their game for next year’s event because I wouldn’t miss it. If you missed it this year, keep an eye out because they’ll be bigger and even better next year.

“I eat a lot of salad, a little meat, and some fruit. That’s all. But I like sweets.”

Sophia Loren

I love going to Lake George in the Summer. There are so many great restaurants and things to do! One of my family’s favorite restaurants was George’s Restaurant (3857 NY-9L, Lake George). It kind of became a staple where at least once a Summer we would have dinner there and eat from their delicious salad bar. GeorgesLG-1In April 2014, we were sad to hear that George’s had some fire damage due to the house behind the building catching on fire. George’s was expecting to open that Friday but the fire damage hit the kitchen and they needed to do the necessary repairs and therefore, didn’t open last season. Luckily in May, they announced that there were opening for the 2015 season and we couldn’t wait to support them!

It’s still the same restaurant with the fancy chandeliers, mirror, and pictures on the wall. The salad bar, though enhanced, has moved but the menu is still broken down into “From the Butcher Block,” “From the Sea,” and “From the Farm and Garden.” Aside from the salad bar, my other favorite option is the Early Bird Special served 4:30PM-6:00PM. I got an entree for $19.99 which includes full-access to the soup and salad bar as well as a choice of baked potato, french fries, GeorgesLG-2rice pilaf, mashed potatoes, or steamed broccoli.

For starters, my cousin ordered the peppered ahi tuna and it came with a side of seaweed salad, sriracha. It was delicious. My appetizer was oysters on a half shell. Every so often I get an oyster craving and it’s pretty easy to mess up oysters, in my opinion anyway. These were great! Fresh, perfect texture, great size/amount, and the vinegar and cocktail sauce paired with it perfectly. I would definitely order them again, it was a great starting plate before my salad bar creation.

For dinner, I ordered off of the Early Bird Special options and got the Eggplant Parmesan. I was really surprised when I got my plate because the eggplant was pretty lost in the sauce. It looked as if I had a plate of sauce and I happened to order bits of eggplant in it. After some digging, I did eventually find the eggplant I was looking for. The portion size was appropriate. Not saying it’s right but I’m so used to getting three or four servings in each plate but this wasn’t the case, I had just enough and no leftovers to take home. GeorgesLG-3The sauce was really good and the eggplant was okay, it ended up getting soggy from all the sauce on it but it was pretty good and very filling. I would’ve liked for my eggplant to have some with a pasta option for the extra sauce but I didn’t see various potato products helping with that.

Overall, the food was good and I’m so happy they’re finally open again. Their salad bar is serious and I should’ve just ordered that for dinner. Make sure you go with enough time to take advantage of their early bird special. The staff is awesome and incredibly helpful, very knowledgeable! My only wish is that in their renovations, they made the stalls in the bathroom bigger. Be forewarned, though very clean, ad someone who is as tall as I am, I would probably go to the bathroom before I got there!

Note: I was also surprised to see Purrs and Paws: A Kitten and Cat Shelter on the property. I’m all about helping those animals who are victims of animal cruelty or overpopulation, I just wasn’t expecting it. If you’re an animal person and going to the restaurant, check it out. It’s really a great thing they’re doing for those cats.