Sunday, March 4, 2012

Saratoga Beer Festival

Back in January, a coworker alerted me to a groupon for 'some beer thing in Saratoga' that we might want to check out. It looked like a pretty good deal - $10 per person for a four hour session at the 'Beer Summit'. If the beers were at all good, it would be hard not to get our money's worth, we thought. So, we bought in, and then promised to remind each other six weeks later that we had tickets to beer tasting in Saratoga. Luckily, one of us set a reminder in her cell phone, and there we were at noon on a Saturday ready to do some drinking at the Saratoga City Center. The tasting was well-attended, and it seemed like people were having a pretty decent time, but there were definitely some highlights and lowlights.

First, the lowlights:
1. Our 'souvenir tasting glass' was one of those "5.5-oz" things that usually only get filled with 3-4 ounces of beer. I'd rather have had a more reasonable size 'taste', and it would be much better advertising if they gave us functional pint glass that we'd actually use.

2. Four beer tokens were included with admission, which would be great, except that the nicer beers from Ommegang, Brasserie Dupont, Chimay, and other 'special' beers required two tokens apiece. Considering the paltry quantity of beer in each taste, the double-charge seemed kind of lame. Those beers didn't seem to be selling very well, either. We ended up buying additional tokens for $2 per piece.
3. The price of admission at the door was $30 per person, and a lot of the beers were not very interesting. I would have been unhappy with paying $7.50 for 4 ounces of beers like Blue Moon, Yuengling, Sam Adams, and Shock Top. We happened to meet some friends who had paid the door price, and I felt kind of bad for them.
4. Most of the beers were being served by volunteers instead of reps from the breweries, which meant that we didn't really get any special background about the beers.
5. The tasting was scheduled to go until 4 pm, and last call was at 3:30pm, which was not communicated from the get-go. We had to scramble and beg the servers to exchange our last tokens for beer. Again, I felt kind of bad for the people who paid $30 for the event.
There were a few highlights:
1. The music was great -  the awesome guitar duo of Tequila Mockingbirds.
2. The Long Trail and Otter Creek reps did a great job of presenting their beers, and both brought some special brews that aren't widely available.
3. It seemed like the other events of the 'Beer Week' might have been more enjoyable. One of our friends went to a Sierra Nevada event at the Seven Horse Pub, which was free to enter, and got to try some unusual and delicious (according to him) brews.
4. After the 'summit' is over, w were in Saratoga, which isn't a bad place to be for good food and drink. We went to the Seven Horse Pub for some pretty good pizza (and more beer) and then up the Circus Cafe, which makes a damn fine cheeseburger (an actual medium-rare if you want it!).
All in all, I had fun, but I probably wouldn't be saying that if I'd paid the door price. Next year, if I go at all, I'll probably skip the 'summit' and go to the events specific to the particular breweries I'm interested in.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Breakfast Tour

Even though we've pretty much dropped out of blogging, the Profussor (who else?) has yet again managed to inspire us to eat and write about it.
Last Saturday, we joined Professor Fussy’s latest exploration of the capital district’s food-type treasures. Since the objects of our attention would be egg and cheese sandwiches, it seemed sensible (???) to start at the breakfasty hour of 7:30 in the morning. Slightly behind schedule, we were the last ones of the group to arrive at Jack’s Diner, on Central Ave. We ordered, and were cheerfully served this lovely sausage, egg and cheese sandwich.

For cheese, we ordered cheddar, but it looked kinda marbled like Colby-Jack. Overall, it was actually our favorite sandwich, getting lots of points for the a good amount of tasty cheese, nice natural-casing link sausage, and two eggs that were just lightly scrambled on the griddle, so you got some medium-cooked yolks mixed with the whites.  Where Jack’s Diner loses points is in the competition for value, since this was the priciest sandwich of the day, at $4.99 plus tax and tip. That seems a little high, but it was a pretty hearty sandwich  

Next up was McCarroll’s, in the Delmar Marketplace, which served up a foil-wrapped sandwich with a sausage patty instead of links. The poppy seed-dusted  roll on this sandwich was a little bit overly greasy from being toasted on the grill (and maybe also from the sausage), and the egg was a little bit overcooked to us. This sausage left a stronger, more persistent peppery taste behind, and dominated the flavor of the sandwich overall. McCarroll's is a grocery store, so the seating is pretty minimal, and allows you to be tempted by such things as cheesecake from the Nuns of New Skete

At this point, I started to wonder if it was a good idea to have our egg and cheese sandwiches with sausage. Both Jack’s Diner and McCarroll’s sell egg sandwiches with two eggs each, and a generous amount of sausage, and our hunger was pretty much gone after the second stop. We were a little worried about seeing this through with three more sandwiches!

Next stop: Stewarts.  Not surprisingly, this was our least-liked sandwich of the tour. There really was nothing to like about it, except the fact that it was ready for us before we even arrived, riding around a glass-case carousel, and we enjoyed the outdoor seating on this wierdly mild-weather day. The dog thoroughly enjoyed this sandwich, and other leftover bits (including some circle bacon!) from more than one other sandwich.

Latham's Bella Napoli served up a double-egg sandwich on griddled house-made rolls that were sweetly buttery. No cheddar available, and this sausage was more mild than the one at McCarrolls This was our second-favorite sandwich of the day, mostly because of the quality bun and nice egg cookery. We also picked up some delicious Italian almond cookies. 

Last but not least, we stopped in at Famous Lunch in Troy. Even though we’ve lived in the area for half a dozen years, we had not yet ever visited this popular place, famous for their mini-dogs. Despite the fact that we were no longer the slightest bit hungry, we dug in to four mini dogs (1 'works', 1 plain for each of us) before sampling the breakfast sandwich. Our piping hot sandwich, which arrived on our table approximately 2.5 seconds after leaving the griddle, had just a single egg, a sausage patty, and American cheese (no options here). Nothing fancy about it, but it was done right, served quickly, for not much money, and the place has a lot of character and an overall fun vibe.

Those were the ups and downs of our egg sandwich tour. I had kind of expected them to be served on hard rolls that were, well, more crackly hard, but all were pretty soft rolls. We may have had morethan one gram of cholesterol for each of us in just under 4.5 hours, but we also had of fun and checked out some places we'd never been. Thanks, Profussor!
P.S. Maybe we'll update this blog more than twice this year.