Wednesday, April 01, 2009

UK trip - mass photo post

We had a week in the UK, with a couple of days in Paris inserted in the middle (primarily for Aidan to see the Eiffel tower - see next post); not much tourist stuff this trip, almost entirely visiting family. Those of you - are there any? - not related to me will wish to skip the following photo barrage...

Incidentally, the rather large young man with a naked Keiran on his lap is only 5 (I think!) - my sister has *large* sons!

Food porn: Salmon Wellington

We have a local food/restaurant blogger and reporter, Steve Barnes, whose writing I like and whose taste has generally proven good. In a recent post, he gave a recipe for Salmon Wellington. I'd been meaning to make Beef Wellington - mmm, steak AND pastry! - for a long time, and this was a version that also appealed to Jenny, so I made it for a fancy-guest-dinner. I thought it came out really well, and was not too hard, either; I've made it once since, and it really shows off the excellent salmon Jenny tracked down at Two Cousins fish market (also from a suggestion of Steve's). Yum.

[The second photo is of the caramel-cream sauce just before adding pinot noir and reducing. I am always surprised by how foolproof caramel is to make and manipulate!]

Yono's - another good Albany restaurant

We are slowly finding good places to eat here. Yono's is one of the oddest, in an entirely good way!

The location put Jenny off initially: it's in the downtown Hampton Inn. The front bar area has a casual brasserie, and the chef - Yono - was out there socialising and enjoying his wine list :). But the formal dining room is through a further door, and leads to a cozy, very elegant room that reminds me very much of Victoria&Albert's at Disney: a secluded escape space much more upscale than its surroundings. Service was excellent and very much in line with the space; they didn't blink at our informality (we were not expecting such a place!) or the presence of two small boys. Kudos.

The menu has two halves: one is Indonesian, reflecting I believe Yono's birth and upbringing, with the other being fairly standard US/international. Choosing was *difficult* - there are enough items which have high appeal that I would have had no trouble placing three or four complete orders [kurobuta marinated pork belly, an interesting foie preparation, alligator, ostrich (with mushrooms and more foie)... an that's ignoring the Indonesian side]. We went, though, for the special mini-tasting menu offer of four courses for $44, wine three wines paired for only $10 more. Pretty superb value. [Aidan had Indonesian fried rice and a fish dish that I am blanking on.]

The food didn't quite live up to the high expectations, but was never bad: the venison of my main course was simply a little too bland and overwhelmed by unsubtle fig sauce, the snapper of the appetiser slightly overcooked. But some items were great: the presentation of Jenny's bisque as a cup of tea with a fried wonton as the teabag, the slice of almost-raw tuna as an amuse-bouche, and other touches. Looking at the menu online right now, it's entirely changed for today, suggesting an unusual responsiveness to ingredient availability, and we plan to return several times. The wines also deserve mention: generous pours, well-matched, high-quality, and again not a hint of reservation at replacing a newly-opened but corked bottle.

Overall, remarkably good and a hugely pleasant surprise. Very glad to find Yono's as we continue to explore Albany's dining scene.


The local YMCA has - among many virtues - an extremely enthusiastic hike/bushwhack/outdoors leader, who recently acquired Y accreditation to be allowed to lead groups. The first of these was a gentle snowshoe trip, and seemed like an excellent opportunity to get Aidan and Jenny some new snowshoes and play in the snow.

Oh, and Keiran came, too :-).

We all had a blast; special thanks to Alan (the leader) and to Jeanette (I believe) who acted as 'sweeper' and came back to find us when we were initially slightly late. Aidan got to go break trail, which he loved, but he is so light that it didn't actually break trail much for the rest of us..

Back in the groove. OK, more like jolting over a rut.

...and no, nothing here is an April Fool's post. I seem to have skipped March entirely, and am hence once again catching up.

This will swiftly end as I try to hit the various grant opportunities available from the stimulus funds in the next, um, 2-3 weeks or so... but for now, let's throw up some more pics and so on.

First up: me being somewhat silly and attemptedly arty in self-portrait mode. Otherwise known as one of the very few photos of myself I actually quite like!