A Whirlwind Weekend Of Food Firsts

I’ve been having a lot of food epiphanies lately and one of them is that I want to try new things. My mom always said I was always a great kid to cook for because I was never picky and enjoyed pretty much everything she put in front of me. As I grew up, I think I got a little more closed off, especially if a food looked or sounded unfamiliar. But now, I’m opening myself back up and want to eat as many new foods as I can, which is exactly what I did this weekend. My wife’s parents came in for a visit, which always means lots of eating out, but I made a conscious effort to look at the parts of familiar menus I’d only glanced over previously and wound up having a variety of great new foods that me from a few years ago would probably have balked at. I wish I had taken more pictures, but I was so excited about actually eating that I forgot that I wanted to start writing about the process. Anyway, here goes.

Edamame, Avocado Salad & Zhang Zhang Guo
QQ Asian Bistro
367 Windsor Highway
New Windsor, NY 12553
(845) 569-7108

QQ is a fairly new Asian bistro near our place that serves a variety of Asian food from Chinese and Thai to sushi. I’ve gotten food from there a number of times, but Friday was the first time we ever dined in. We started the meal of with edamame and Thai Herbal Calamari which were both new experiences. I’ve had edamame a number of times before, but at QQ, they salt the pea pods, so they wind up having a little extra flavor when you pop them in your mouth. Some might have been overly salty, but for the most part I enjoyed the added flavor. Meanwhile, the Thai Herbal Calamri came very lightly fried and had a nice taste to it. I’m no squid expert, so I have no idea how fresh it was or tasted, but it was an enjoyable dish. I wanted to try the squid salad, but the sushi chef informed the waitress that that was a no go, so I wound up trying the Avocado Salad. A simple dish made up of slices of avocado on top of a bed of lettuce with a gingery dressing that was pretty good. I figured I needed some greens in my life, plus I always enjoy trying new dressings. Then came the main course, which for me was Zhang Zhang Guo. The menu describes the dish as “Soup style noodle pot with chicken, shrimp and scallop.” I was intrigued and dove right in. The pot also included octopus or squid, I’m not sure which, but the bowl, when uncovered, revealed tiny purplish tentacles sticking up like something out of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. It was exactly what I was looking for. I dove in alternating between chopsticks and a spoon, quite enjoying the spicy, seafood filled soup. The broth was enjoyable and again, I’m not a seafood expert, but I liked what I had, though I’m not sure if the squid/octopus flavors really jumped out. A few days out, I couldn’t tell you what they tasted like, but I know I liked what I had.

Reheated zhang zhang guo, minus seafood.

I actually just heated the leftovers up for lunch and it tasted just as good the second time around, though it only consisted of broth and noodles. That same spiciness was still there and lasted for a while, but it was a good kind of spicy, the kind I’m getting used to after avoiding hot stuff most of my life.

Soppressata, Sheep’s Cheese, Olive Tapenade & Tomato Sandwich
The Cheese Plate
Water Street Market
10 Main St.
New Paltz, NY 12561

On Saturday, the inlaws wanted to head to New Paltz, a combination liberal arts college town and hippie strongold about 30-40 minutes from where we live. As you would expect from such a place, they have a unique version of a strip mall called Water Street Market that looks more like two sides of a small town’s main street up on a hill and separated by a sidewalk. There’s a few antique stores, a pet boutique and a wonderful place I’d never been to before called The Cheese Plate. As I tend to do, I hadn’t eaten breakfast before leaving, so when we got to the Market, I was getting hungry. While the others walked around, I ducked into the good smelling place, looked around for a bit and decided on ordering the Soppressata, Sheep’s Cheese, Olive Tapenade & Tomato Sandwich. I’d never had soppressata or sheep’s cheese before but wound up really enjoying this snack (okay, it was actually pretty filling, but I still had a dinner coming up to focus on, so I told myself and my traveling companions that it was a snack). The sheep’s cheese had a nice bite to it, kind of like Swiss cheese as far as my inexperienced tongue could tell, though I didn’t detect the gaminess that people talk about when discussing sheep or goat cheese. The soppressata–a cured salami made from ham–that lives somewhere around salami and pepperoni in my mind and on my tongue was so tasty I want ro add it to my life on a regulat basis. It wasn’t spicy, but had some tingliness to it that I appreciated. All that combined with the tartness of the olive tapenade made for a delightful sandwich that I relished eating while first walking around and then while sitting on one side of a table set up with a chess board. I could eat that every single day. If you’re in the New Paltz area, I highly recommend stopping by and trying one of their sandwiches or just buying some bulk cheese or even some cured meat. My wife dug the brownie I got for her, but that’s not really my scene, you dig?

The view at Billy Joe

Catfish Po’ Boy
Billy Joe’s Ribworks
26 Front Street
Newburgh NY, 12550
(845) 565-1560
I’ve talked about Billy Joe’s Ribworks before. After enjoying it so much the first time around, it’s become one of our favorite places. I even had my birthday lunch/dinner/eating-before-the-Superbowl there this past February. I usually stick to some combination of meats that always leaves me very satisfied. After chowing down on the awesome soppressata sandwich, though, I wasn’t as hungry as usual. I still wanted to try something new, so I scanned the sandwich section of the menu and wound up getting the Catfish Po’ Boy. As far as I can remember, I’ve never had a po’ boy or catfish, so I was still able to try something brand new. The menu describes it as “Catfish Fillet Dredged in Cornmeal and Spices, Fried Golden Brown and Served on a Soft Hoagie Roll with House-Made Cole Slaw, Pickles and Cajun Remoulade.” When it was served, I first tried a chunk of the fried catfish and really liked the cornmeal crust on top, plus the fish itself was nice and light. The sandwich itself was pretty good, but I wish the remoulade had more of a flavor to it. I’m a strong believer that a sauce can save a boring sandwich and elevate a good one to greatness. This one was just good, but it still opened my eyes to the joys of catfish. Plus, we got to sit outside on their awesome deck which sits over the Hudson River!

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