Happy 4th Birthday, AOA!
The people of All Over Albany are good to me. They’ve helped me get my blog to reach an audience that I just could not have reached on my own, and they continue to help week after week by linking to the silly little things I write. When I received the invite to attend their 4th Birthday party at The City Beer Hall on March 22, I was bummed because I was tied up in a family crisis that kept me from a computer. Luckily, Cassie is even closer than I am with the people behind AOA, so she was available to sign up for me. Phew.
And when I saw the menu that would be offered (posted by AOA on facebook earlier in the week), I sighed even more in relief, because I didn’t want to miss this.
I had a quick errand to run after work before I could head over there, but, as soon as I arrived, just after being greeted by the minds behind AOA, I saw my calling, a man from Chatham Brewery passing their super IPA (India pale ale) through a Randall containing cascade hops. There’s a lot to explain here. Their Super IPA is an 8% alcohol by volume beer; I’ve never had it before. A Randall is a contraption that allows beer to flow through under slightly elevated pressure and pick up additional flavors. Because of the relatively high alcohol content and elevated pressure, many non-polar organic components, tasty things like esters and aldehydes, can be picked up by the beer and add to the flavor profile. I’ve heard about other things like coffee and vanilla beans being inside of a Randall. Pretty crazy idea!
It was totally cool, and, for $6, it was totally delicious. It was my first Randalled beer, and I may have called the guy serving the beer Randall repeatedly. It’s ok. Randall was the cool kid in Clerks.
I got to try most of the food. When I arrived, the charcuterie station and pita/crostini station were set up.
I tried the three cheeses on the platter, the blue cheese being my favorite (side note: I’d like to know where this comes from for an upcoming project). The meats were delicious, but the little stuffed peppadews were out of this galaxy. When you popped one of these, you instantly got a sweet, vinegary, pickled flavor, followed by a small bite from the pepper, and, as the (what I think was) goat cheese mixed into the bite, the texture turned creamy and sour. It was a sensational bite; I certainly hope that this is something that is on the charcuterie platter when derryX Dines: The City Beer Hall.
The pita/crostini station was a little less visually appealing, so I didn’t snap a picture. I tried some of the hummus and some olives. They were pretty good.
Appetizers were being passed by some fun young kids. I think all of them got to know me and my personality pretty well because I could see the smirks on their faces as they’d approach my vicinity with their plates. All of the passed appetizers were exactly what you’d expect. The brisket wellington was an interesting concept to me, and I think it was pretty delicious and well executed. The grilled cheese also stood out because of the jalapeno relish and interesting cheese on the sandwich. The sushi ceviche tortilla bites were probably my least favorite (yes, even less than the chicken liver).
There was a young man grilling kebabs. I tried four, two Mediterranean (chicken with cipollini), one Oaxacan (pork with pobalno peppers – named after a region of Mexico), and one Asian (hoisin beef with pineapple). All were very good, the Oaxacan being my favorite. I had to get my protein in there some how!
As I circulated the crowd speaking to some old and some new friends, I noticed they brought out another charcuterie plate, so I had to grab two more pictures to capture the full glory of this. This time, there was an additional goat cheese on the plate.
It was at this point that they brought out trays of cupcakes. Calm down, guys. They’re just cupcakes. They were special cupcakes, though, because they were homemade.
This is me acting like a debonair with a cupcake. (I know I said I’m done with cupcakes for a while, but tough.)
After I finished my cupcake, I and a number of others witnessed what I’m going to call “The Cupcake Caper.” There was a raised area off to the side where a bunch of people were sitting. After a short staircase, there were the tables with the food and cupcakes. At the time, I was positioned about midway on the staircase talking with some people. A lady excused herself as she made me move out of her way so she could get cupcakes; she took three. After she returned to her table, she excused herself again and grabbed three more. This back and forth happened one or two more times. It was only noteworthy to me because I had to move out of her way that many times. After the last time, a few of us noticed her and another woman huddling to stuff the cupcakes into bags which may or may not have been from a dentist’s office. Both ladies left immediately after, and both were wearing admission bracelets (to the party, not to a medical facility). I’m sure none of this was any big deal; it was just one of those fun moments where a few of us had puzzled looks on our faces. And if you know anything about puzzled looks on peoples’ faces, they’re pretty funny.
The evening was a whole lot of fun. I got to interact with many new people, some of which I am familiar with through social media, others who are commenters on AOA and here (side note: it was really fun to ask the people who said they just comment on AOA if they were -S.; they seemed to at first be bothered by the question and then realized it was a joke. Totally my kind of humor.), and other completely new people.
The crowd that AOA draws is certainly a special one, and I am happy to be a part of it.
Happy birthday, AOA. May you have many more!