Tag Archives: upstate

Apple Cider Donuts at Soon’s Orchard, New Hampton NY

I’m not a sucker for sweets. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, even if this blog is full of dessert posts. But the truth is that I don’t seek out cakes, pastries and pies, and I would be as happy with fruit after a meal. Dessert I feel is a moment to share as a separate meal sharing a slice with tea and conversation, or as a second destination after a restaurant meal. Anyway, where was I? (Lost in sugary lies!)

Oh yes, warm apple cider donuts. From Soons Orchard, these are about the best donuts I’ve ever had. Ever. Would I lie to you? Maybe for a donut.

At 31 cents apiece, they’re not bad! They have them with brown or powdered sugar. I prefer them as a classic brown, and freshly made from the Soon’s country store. Continue reading

Red Onion, Woodstock NY

Is it snooty to be distrustful of people’s tastes in food when they live in small towns? This might be the snobby New Yorker in me talking, but tell me that’s not what New York does to its inhabitants. We are spoiled with the most diverse array of cuisines and such a high concentration of food establishments that intense competition quickly weeds out inferior ones within a few months of opening.

That doesn’t mean I am not proven wrong every so often. Our excursions to Sweet Sue’s in Phoenicia and The Country Inn in Olivebridge both originated from a local’s recommendation. We found Red Onion online, and though we were wary about its fine dining reputation, we were quickly reassured by Brooklyn friends who had a house up there that we couldn’t go wrong with Red Onion. Good.

Continue reading

Sweet Sue’s, Phoenicia, NY

In 2005 we visited a cousin in upstate New York and became intrigued by the idea of a possible weekend house where the dog could run and we could flex some home improvement muscles and perhaps even landscape a yard. We first searched in Ulster County, in the towns surrounding Woodstock, with the help of a cooky real estate agent named Sharon whose canned responses and car conversation idiosyncrasies we still repeat to this day. During one of these Saturdays spent driving from one house to another, Sharon took us to Sweet Sue’s for lunch, raved about everything on the menu, and I had one of the most memorable meatloaf meals of my life. We vowed to go back, but somehow never got around to it. We bought a house in Sullivan county in late 2005, sold it by mid-2007, and only returned to Sweet Sue’s last weekend during our (blush) mini-honeymoon seven years later. Time flies.

Blue Monkeys - Buttermilk pancakes with blueberries and bananas

Blue Monkeys – Buttermilk pancakes with blueberries and bananas. (Sugar packet placed alongside for size comparison)

But WOW. We never even tried their pancakes before but have always known them to be good. Continue reading

Country Inn, Olivebridge NY

We arrived in the early evening at our weekend rental, and just like many upstate houses we’ve rented, it was in the middle of nowhere. We tried to take note of some restaurants along the way, but in reality we had settled for the idea of grabbing pizza for dinner and calling it a night. Lo and behold, the landlord’s house instructions mentioned their fortune in being close to the Country Inn, and gave directions on how to get there.

From the outside it was quite intimidating, causing us to do a quick scan of the parked trucks for shotguns sticking out and NRA stickers. “Let’s give this a shot, how bad can it be?” we agreed, and we parked. The bar section looked like a biker bar but the restaurant section looked decent. Along the walls they displayed their impressively wide selection of beers we were unfortunately not in the mood for that night. We ordered some food and were quite surprised.

We started with a squid and tomato salad which was delightful, followed by a brussels sprouts appetizer cooked in orange and balsamic. Both convinced us that we were not in a scary bar that only offered buffalo wings.

R ordered the fish special and was very pleased that the fish was not overly salted the way we’ve often found in even the best places. Served over wild rice, this was light and flavorful, and definitely a winner. Continue reading

So Kong Dong Soft Tofu Restaurant

So Kong Dong Tofu Restaurant in Fort Lee, NJ is a restaurant that could break my heart if it ever closed down. We have been going to this restaurant for the past ten years and it has never failed us. The  soondubu (tofu soup) and the kalbi (Korean BBQ ribs) are the best we’ve ever had. Although they have raised their prices recently, it is still very affordable at $9 per soup (serves 1-2) and the kalbi is now $15 (then $10, but that was ten years ago).
House Specialty: soondubu jigae (tofu soup).
Pictured here, a boiling cast iron pot of seafood and beef soup, spicy. 
The paper placemat also serves as a menu with only two main items: tofu soup and ribs. There are different varieties of soup such as beef, seafood, pork, kimchi, mushroom, beef & seafood, and plain. There are different levels of spice as well: not spicy, not too spicy, medium, spicy and very spicy.  I would recommend medium for the novice who can tolerate a bit of heat, but I find that the spicy once is very tasty. I don’t think I’d go past spicy.

I love the unlimited banchan (appetizers), which include bean sprouts, kimchi, cucumbers and radish. 
The soup arrives boiling in a cast iron pot. One has the option of adding an egg into the mix. 
I like cooking my egg whole and then eating the semi-cooked yolk with my rice.
The ribs are tender, juicy, and very flavorful. I’ve been unable to find kalbi this good anywhere.
The secret is of course the thinly sliced, well-marbled meat. The seasoning is also out of the ordinary and tastes like it’s been marinating for a long time.
Rice is served in steel bowls. Here I have my rice topped with a piece of beef and two shrimp from my soup being made to cool.
After they serve the rice, they pour barley tea into the pot and the resulting mixture it makes with the burnt rice in the bottom is eaten as a palate-cleanser at the end of the meal.
As you can see, I hated it. :o)  This is a bowl that might be big enough for two people but because it is so good, we always get our own. 
A father cuts the beef into pieces with scissors for his daughters.
There must have been an overhaul of servers recently because the grumpier legends have all gone and have been replaced by kinder wait staff, a welcome change for this great place.
Wall fixtures.
Interior decor.
Outside the restaurant just reads “Soft Tofu Restaurant”
There is no dessert available on the menu but they do serve “Dessert Gum.”
So Kong Dong is a must if you are in the area. 
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