Manhattan Copycats

I’m slowly becoming more and more enamored with simple foods. And I’ve discovered simple foods generally are created on a triune foundation. Three components that come together to make delicious magic. I want to elaborate on this more at some point and hope to write a full post about it in the future.

I found myself with the opportunity to spend a full day in Manhattan,  and I decided while I was there I would eat a couple of copycat items that are attempting to elevate themselves above their inspiration. I found a restaurant that’s making copycat Five Guys burgers, and one that’s making a copycat Chik-Fil-A sandwich.

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Pizza Pilgrimage II – Fried Pizza

Did you know fried pizza is a thing?

Yes, fried pizza. I know it sounds gratuitous, but stick with me. I first discovered it a couple of months ago. I was surprised to learn it’s not new, it’s been around for awhile. And it’s not gimmicky, as though it were something you’d find at a carnival food stand. Trust me, it’s a heck of a lot better than it sounds. I’m even inclined to use the “D” word—delicious—and that wouldn’t be an embellishment for the sake of dramatic effect. In fact, I’d love to see an Albany area establishment create a fried pizza of their own. More about that in a moment.
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The Wood Fired Pizza at Restaurant Navona

Slowly but surely I’m becoming a pizza snob.

I’ve been eating a lot of pizza lately. In the last 9 months, I’ve had the good fortune to eat at three pizzerias that are some of the best in the country. Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Pepe’s in New Haven, and Varasano’s in Atlanta. At home, in the Albany area, I’ve been eating pizza at a whole host of different local places as well. Both new and old. You could say in addition to my burger obsession, I’ve also been obsessed with pizza over the last year or so as well.

The nice thing about all the above, is that eating a lot of different pizza locally, and from all over the country, (and also with some influences by others that I respect), has helped me to form a strong opinion of what I like in pizza, and don’t like (which I’ve already spelled out in my Tinney’s Tavern post, so I won’t rehash it here), but the short version is I’m in love with Neapolitan style wood fired pizza.

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Pizza Pilgrimage

One morning, going through my email, and weeding through all the spam, I came across the email of promotions Living Social sends out to it’s subscribers each day.

I saw a special for Tinney’s Tavern. Tinney’s is on the shore of Lake Desolation, about an hour northwest of Albany. Apparently Lake Desolation is a destination for snowmobilers in the winter, and Tinney’s is a popular place to take a break, warm up, fill up your belly and have a couple of beers.

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Staycationaurant IV – Phoenix Part I – Best Pizza in America

Welcome to episode IV of my Staycationaurant series. I’ve got a lot to share about Phoenix, so I’m breaking this post up into two parts. Here’s part one. I hope you enjoy it.

This past weekend, I attended the wedding of the son of a longtime friend in Chandler Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. And as I’m sure you’ve guessed, I was quite excited to check out the restaurant scene in “The Valley”.

We were only in the Phoenix area for few days, and half of one day would be spent at the wedding. Time was not on my side. I did manage to squeeze in several interesting restaurants though, and overall I had some great food there.

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Some Chains I’d Like to See Come to Albany

Let’s face it, chain restaurants are ubiquitous. And people that don’t eat at chains are the exception rather than the rule. Chains get a bad rap. They’re associated with poor quality, highly processed foods, with little nutritional value. I’ve even chronicled some of them in my Bad Chains series.

But good things are happening. Consumers are demanding better quality food, while still desiring the convenience and familiarity that chains deliver, and restaurants are responding. Just recently, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell announced they are removing artificial ingredients from their food. Panera has pledged to do the same. Even Chipotle—arguably the leader in the “better fast food” category—has announced it will no longer use ingredients that contain GMOs.

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Staycationaurant II – Man Plans and God Laughs

In episode one of Staycationaurant, I vowed that while on vacation I would try as many restaurants as I could. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go to nearly as many as I’d like. Things came up. I got busy. My wife had other plans. Life has a way of throwing curveballs, as we all know.

That’s not always bad though, because at the last minute, a Saturday afternoon freed up for me and I didn’t hesitate to take advantage. Pondering my options, and since the weather wasn’t too bad, I decided to head to downtown Troy and wander around the “New Brooklyn” as it’s been called.

I’m ashamed to admit I had never been to DeFazio’s Pizzeria. It’s generally considered one of the best, if not the best pizzeria in the Capital Region. It’s been on my list for a while though, and I decided it would be my first stop. The pizza of course was fantastic. I knew I’d be stopping at a couple of other places afterward, so I didn’t want to eat too much pizza. That was tough. The few slices I didn’t eat were staring at me, taunting me with their cheesy goodness, daring me to eat them. But I withstood the test, and only ate half the pizza. (DeFazio’s does not sell slices).

In addition to making a great pizza, DeFazio’s is so genuine and down to earth. If you’ve read any of my other posts you know I enjoy that. I also found it interesting that the red pepper they set on the table they get locally and it’s ground fresh there. The “shaky cheese” as I call it, is shredded next door at their grocery store and is far better than the green can stuff most places have.

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Bad Chain Restaurants

I have a love-hate relationship with chain restaurants. Like anything, there are good ones, and there are bad ones. But not everyone agrees. Mention Cheesecake Factory among a group of foodies and the groans and sneers will be palpable. This, in spite of the fact that Cheesecake Factory is actually one of the better chains in America today.

I have a fascination with bad chain restaurants. I’m like a deer in the headlights when I discover one. Like a car wreck on the highway, I can’t help but stare. I can’t look away. There is just something about eating really bad, really cheap food that I enjoy. Oddly, I’m attracted to places that are guaranteed—pardon the pun—to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. It’s masochistic. I know.
I recently scratched my bad chain itch by dining at CiCi’s Pizza. Though calling it dining is a stretch.

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