GUILDERLAND — It’s common now for restaurants to offer meals to take home. Some are ready-made, some require a little effort, but the outcome is, ideally, a restaurant-quality meal at home without too much work.
Fin, in the Star Plaza shopping center in Guilderland, sells fish by the pound, or prepared and ready to heat and eat. So you can use Fin’s products in your own cooking or purchase one of their already-made foods. I headed over in the afternoon to pick up dinner.
You can feel good about supporting the locally owned Fin. Their fish is sustainably sourced and they’ve done the research to back up their claim. They’re trying to do the right thing, you can tell.
Fin Your Fishmonger
WHERE: 2050 Western Ave., Suite 104 (Star Plaza), Guilderland,
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
HOW MUCH: $31.86
MORE INFO: Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover. Parking lot in front. ADA compliant.
They bring in fresh seafood from Fish Pier in Boston. Their fish is not flash-frozen at sea or at the pier and comes to the stores fresh.
The menu is brief but offers lobster rolls ($17.50), Baltimore-style crab cakes ($15) and a few meals like smoky brown sugar broiled salmon ($12.50), along with their take-and-bake special of the day. Meals come with a side of cole slaw, ginger slaw or seaweed salad. There are two soups daily; one is always clam chowder.
I liked the Guilderland store. It was bright and cheerful even on a dank November day. There are two tables by the plate glass front for eating in. A chalkboard advertised their version of fish and chips — Icelandic haddock in a fresh seasoned wine batter with hand-cut fries and a side for $10.
Freezers hold prepared foods, like lobster mac and cheese and seafood lasagne. You can buy their rubs for $2.50, attractively packaged in metal tins, and their compound butters, kimchee, smoked bluefish spread and other Fin products. Another chalkboard listed six kinds of fresh oysters. A chef prepares the ready-to-eat stuff.
The day’s take-home supper was cod with caramelized onions and mushrooms. Fin’s website stated that they would pack your meal in parchment paper, ready to bake, and I asked them to do so. They happily complied, and an order was whisked away to the kitchen and returned in neatly folded parchment in a zippy bag. “Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes,” the helpful employee said.
I left with a small order of New England clam chowder ($4), a single serving of seafood lasagne ($10), a package of four frozen oysters Rockefeller ($8) and the take-home supper ($8). I don’t even like oysters, but they looked and smelled so good I bought them anyway.
At dinnertime I took the plastic cover off the vegetable lasagna and replaced it with foil. It smelled of herbs, and little lobster-colored pieces were sticking out around the sides in a very promising way. I added the oysters to the pan with the lasagna and put them in a 350-degree oven. The parchment packet went into the oven later so everything would be done at the same time.
The chowder went into the microwave. Service was excellent at Chez Caroline, said husband Eric. “It’s an excellent chowder. Just the right thickness, with the consistency of heavy cream. Everything is spoon-sized and it has a nice flavor,” said Eric.
I was pleasantly surprised by the tenderness of the oysters. They were so delicate there was hardly anything to chew. I liked the flavor of the spinach and the bite of tabasco, but Eric was hoping for more breadcrumbs and crispness.
The seafood lasagna slumped pleasantly when cooked, with lots of melted cheese oozing out the sides. There was spinach and some kind of white fish, and in keeping with the spirit of lasagna, ricotta cheese. Heated, it produced melted oil or butter, something that looked tasty. Eric loved it.
Cod, like a white meat chicken breast, is a blank slate. Fin’s chef livens it up with caramelized onions, which have big flavor, and sauteed mushrooms. The parchment packet had a lot of extra liquid in it that was easily drained before plating. I liked the big flakes of gently-flavored fish, and the sweetness of the onions.
Their very popular ginger slaw is made without mayonnaise. Instead, it’s highly seasoned of ginger and curry with a burst of flavor from celery seed. It’s just sweet enough, without the sour bite from vinegar.
“That was a good dinner,” I said, “Something different.” Eric agreed. We weren’t stuffed, just pleasantly sated. There wasn’t a lot to wash up, either.
The cost of the meal was $31.86, with tax and tip. It tasted like a restaurant-quality meal and we didn’t have to leave home on a chilly, rainy night.