Monday, September 1, 2014

Troy Craft Beer Week gets under way Tuesday

Screen shot 2014-09-01 at 5.52.07 PMTROY -- A reminder: Troy Craft Beer Week begins Tuesday.

From then through Saturday, September 6, the city's craft beer culture will be celebrated by food and drink specials at taverns throughout town. There also will be a beer-centric scavenger hunt for those who like to stay on the move. Details available here.

Key venues will be The Ruck, 104 Third Street; the Ale House, 680 River Street; Brown's Brewing Company, 417 River Street, and Rare Form Brewing, the new microbrewery located at 90 Congress Street downtown. Details on specials and events can be found here.

August's most-read posts on 'Notes On Napkins'

News about the 140 or so restaurants preparing to participate in the annual Travers Restaurant Week was by far the most-read posting in August on "Notes On Napkins."

As a category, my periodic short-take updates (with "foodie revolving door" in the headlines) on local news continue to be the most popular. As evidence, for August such roundups finished in the fifth position, then took slots 9 through 12.

Here are the top 10 most-read postings for the month. If you missed any of them, simply click on the specific headline to go to it.
1. Reminder: Travers Restaurant Week begins Sunday
2. Update: New Red Lobster owners plan to make changes
3. Washington County cheese tour set for two dates
4. Albany County 2014 restaurant inspections (A-I)
5. Quaker Steak & more in the foodie revolving door (8/10/14 version)
6. Rensselaer County 2014 restaurant inspections
7. Albany County 2014 restaurant inspections (J-Z)
8. Update 2: Instant noodles may lead to cardiac problems
9. A whirl through the Capital Region foodie revolving door (8/4/14 version)
10. A whirl through the Capital Region foodie revolving door (8/5/14 version)

Another TU restaurant critic bites the dust

Critic Anton Ego in 'Ratatouille'
The Times Union ran a brief note at the start of restaurant critic Bryan Fitzgerald's latest review, published this Sunday, saying he "has moved on" after barely a year on that beat.

That makes at least four reviewers since I retired in December 2006 as Associate Editor of the newspaper. Until then one of my myriad duties was reviewing restaurants in the Capital Region and nearby Vermont and Massachusetts for nearly 15 years.

That followed four years of restaurant reviewing in the Baltimore-Washington market where I was Associate Editor of another Hearst Corp. newspaper before moving to Albany way back when as Managing Editor of Hearst's now-defunct Knickerbocker News, which eventually merged with the TU. Each newspaper had its own restaurant critic, but I became the sole one shortly after the merger.

My first successor was then-food editor Ruth Fantasia. She was followed by former restaurateur Cheryl Clark, and she was followed by Fitzgerald, a TU reporter with cooking school credentials. Always in the wings and pitching in as needed was food blogger Steve Barnes. Thus, four different voices being heard.

Plans to name yet another critic "will be announced later," according to the note.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A trip through the Capital Region's foodie revolving door


• Still no specifics to report on the alleged addition of an upscale steak-and-seafood restaurant to the Capital Region. A Rochester newspaper reported some time ago that the owners of the Black & Blue -- which has locations in the Rochester suburb of Pittsford and in Buffalo -- are planning "to open in Albany in October." However, no details -- including no specific location -- on such a project were included and my repeated inquiries to the restaurant company have gone unanswered. All that said, there are some things I can tell you about Black & Blue. The two restaurants are part of a company called Two for Seven, which also owns and operates such Rochester and Buffalo area enterprises as JoJo's Bistro & Wine Bar, TRATA, The Village Bakery and CafĂ©, and Marche Culinary Events Catering Service. Head man Charlie Fitzsimmons recently was named "Business Person of the Year" by the Pittsford Chamber of Commerce. The first Black & Blue opened in 2005. In explaining the operation, the management notes, "It’s not just about our great steaks at b&b, something we obsess about. What also sets us apart is our family owned fish & seafood company in St. Petersburg, FL, where we are able to hand pick and ship the freshest gulf seafood available.  It touches no purveyors, and no middle-men on the way to you;  from the boat to black & blue. Our track & trace program allows you access to where your fish was caught, when, how, and by whom.  We have a commitment to the highest quality, natural ingredients at b&b, all with provenance, sustainability, and local whenever possible." You can look at the Rochester and Buffalo menus for Black & Blue by going to their website. A few dinner appetizer offerings: lobster fritters ($7.95), kobe meatballs ($10.95) and blue crab cocktail ($12.50). Some entree offerings: black grouper ($29.95), coffee- and coca-rubbed steak arabica ($28.95) and 21-ounce bone-in cowboy ribeye ($46.95).


• Barcelona Restaurant is having a sale on its coupons: $5 gift certificates are going for $2 each, $10 gift certificates for $4. Barcelona is located at 1192 Western Avenue, opposite the entrance to the University at Albany. You can get a look at its Mediterranean-American menu here. Hours:Lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, to 11 p.m. Friday and to 9 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 438-1144.

• Have you heard the word "novinophobia"? It's making the rounds these days, and refers to the fear of running out of wine. Brookview Station Winery is jumping on the bandwagon to fight novinophobia by announcing a special sale for its Case Club VIP customers: Visit the winery and purchase six bottles of wine and get a 15% discount, or 12 bottles and get a 20% discount. Not a member? Check into the possibilities online or by calling 732-7495. The winery is located on the grounds of Goold Orchards at 1297 Brookview Station Road in Castleton.


• There have been no fresh posts on its Facebook page since October of last year, and its website doesn't seem to exist anymore. So, it's not surprising to hear that the Green Leaf Cafe has shuttered its venue at 217 Western Avenue in Albany. The business phone also has been disconnected. The cafe had a brief run of about two years.


Coldstone Creamery is looking for a year-round assistant manager for its Congress Park Center unit at 325 Broadway in Saratoga Springs.One of the more unusual requirements is tucked into an ad that notes "We seek out asst managers who like to perform because Entertainment Factor is a job requirement." Available shifts: noon to 4 p.m. Sundays and Mondays, 4 p.m. to closing weekdays/weekends. Phone: 490-6612.

Craft beverage update: NYS keeps on booming

[Changes since 2011]
This is one of the periodic updates on the state's wine industry, provided by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.


The New York wine industry has been growing strongly for several years, but that growth has accelerated since 2011 when Governor Andrew Cuomo took office.

Since then, the number of farm wineries has grown by nearly 50%, from 195 to 291; the number of commercial wineries also is up 50%, from 52 to 79; and, the number of farm winery branch offices has increased by 90%, from 29 to 55.

We know there about 10 winery licenses pending, and I wouldn't at all be surprised if we surpassed 400 by the end of this year.

Our colleagues in the other beverage sectors also are experiencing heady growth rates. Since 2011, 57 new farm breweries have opened which, like farm wineries, must use specific levels of New York State-grown ingredients and have special privileges. The current 104 microbreweries in the state represent a 160% increase from 40; and, the number of restaurant brewers or brewpubs has increased by 230%, from 10 to 33.

In addition, the number of farm distilleries has increased by 450%, from 10 to 55; and the number of farm cideries has increased by 480%, from 7 to 29.

NYSW&GF's Jim Trezise
New York State is fast becoming the farm-based craft beverage capital of America. While consumers focus on the delightful end products, these farm-based businesses also are vital to New York's agricultural base by using raw ingredients -- grapes, apples, other fruits, grains, and more -- which are grown right here, providing valuable income for New York farm families. And, the public policy benefits of a farm beverage license provides great incentives for entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses in New York.

Another important part of the equation is the business-friendly attitude of the Cuomo administration through what the governor calls "entrepreneurial government." The state Department of Agriculture & Markets, Empire State Development, the Department of Transportation and others have been very supportive of the industry. And, the State Liquor Authority has undergone a total transformation with a level of professionalism and an attitude of partnership that had not existed in the 30 years I've been in this industry.

In addition to the Governor's Cup Wine Tours in the Finger Lakes and Long Island, and similar support for the other beverages, the administration has produced a new television commercial promoting New York wine, beer, spirits and cider. The "I Love NY" ad, produced by Empire State Development and featuring renowned actor Stanley Tucci, was first shown at the Long Island event, and will be running this fall during the peak selling season.

Beyond the specific benefits of the policies and promotions, what's even more important is the message they're all sending to our industry: We value you, and we want you to succeed.

Regional beer-history book signing set by Institute

Screen shot 2014-08-31 at 2.35.28 PMALBANY -- A 400-year history of brewing in the region plus samples of modern local craft beer are being paired up at the Albany Institute of History and Art.

The occasion is a book launch and beer tasting scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, September 11. Craig Gravina and Alan McLeod, authors of "Upper Hudson Valley Beer" which covers beer making from the arrival of Dutch explorers to today's resurgent craft beer movement, will be on hand to give a presentation and sign copies of their book. Gravina, not so incidentally, is the author of the entertaining blog called DrinkDrank.

To help set the mood, Remarkable Liquids will be offering samples of local craft brewing. Tickets, priced at $30 per person or $50 per couple, may be reserved by calling 463-4478 extension 412. The price includes a copy of the book.

The Institute, which is a frequent host to beer-centric events, is located at 125 Washington Avenue.

If you can't make that event, Gravina and McLeod will be holding court at the Lionheart Pub, 448 Madison Avenue in Albany, at 5 p.m. Friday September 26. I presume other appearances will be announced along the way.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Wine Bar & Bistro On Lark asking price: $149,900

ALBANY -- So, you wanna own a wine bar. The Wine Bar & Bistro On Lark still is on the market.

The business, located at 200 Lark Street, carries an asking price of $149,900, which includes all equipment. The venue is 2,232 square feet and has seating for 50 inside plus a small four-seat bar, 30 more in the backyard patio, and front sidewalk seating for 12. It also has three gas fireplaces and a fully functional kitchen. Full liquor license and wine cellar.

Chef-owner Kevin P. Everleth's wine list received five consecutive Wine Spectator awards. The kitchen currently operates from  from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The bar sometimes is open later for special events in the city. Phone: 463-2881.

Hudson-Chatham plans wine dinner in a lighthouse

Screen shot 2014-08-29 at 2.03.29 PMWine dinners at restaurants are so passé. Lighthouses are the "in" venues now.

Well, at least one is, for one night.

The Hudson-Chatham Winery, in conjunction with the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society, will host a wine dinner at the historic lighthouse from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, September 20. A cocktail hour and tour of the facility will precede the dinner. Taxi service to and from the lighthouse will be provided.

Reservations and details are available by calling the winery at 392-9463.

Construction was begun on the lighthouse early in 1873. It was completed and put into operation on November 14, 1874. It switched from being a manned facility to am automated one in the 1950s. Today, it still serves as an aid to navigation around the Hudson River's Middle Ground Flats.

The lighthouse was operated and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard until July 3, 2000 when it transferred the deed to the Preservation Society, which is headquartered in Athens, Greene County.

Since then, with private donations, public grants, and legislative initiatives, the organization has undertaken the analysis and mitigation of structural, aesthetic, interpretive and public access issues that face the property.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dairy Queen looking into possible security breach

The Dairy Queen chain today confirmed it is working with federal authorities to investigate what it terms  “suspicious activity” linked to credit cards and debit cards used at some of its restaurants.

The quick-service operator said it was alerted to the possible data breach by the Secret Service, which investigates such criminal activity. The possible data breach is linked to malicious software, or malware.

Last week, Homeland Security said more than 1,000 U.S. retailers could be stricken with Backoff malware.

“We, like many other companies, were recently notified that customer data at a limited number of stores may be at risk, due to the widespread proliferation of the ‘Backoff’ malware,” said American Dairy Queen Corp. spokesman Dean A. Peters.

That particular malware was linked to the data theft late last year at Target Corp., which involved about 40 million compromised credit cards and debit cards.

Dairy Queen has 36 venues in New York State, with two in the greater Capital Region -- at Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, and at 2319 Route 66 in Ghent, Columbia County.

Update 2: Instant noodles may lead to cardiac problems

Snarky Update 2 (8/28/14): Now this story REALLY must be legitimate. The Times Union mentioned it today.

Snarky update (8/26/14): The following story must be accurate. The New York Times today got around to publishing a story on the same topic.

(Originally published 8/14/14)

From Yahoo! Health

... Instant ramen noodles, beloved cheap dinner of college kids and budget eaters everywhere, have been linked to heart attacks and diabetes.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that the ramen, along with other instant noodle products, may increase a person’s risk for cardiometabolic syndrome -- a risk factor for severe cardiovascular disease and stroke  -- especially in women.

“This research is significant since many people are consuming instant noodles without knowing possible health risks,” said lead researcher Dr. Hyun Joon Shin, MD, in a press release. Shin is a clinical cardiology fellow at Baylor University Medical Center in Waco, TX, and a nutrition epidemiology doctoral student at Harvard School of Public Health. ...

Researchers looked at the data of 10,711 adults between the ages of 19 and 64, collected via the nationally representative Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2007-2009. They found that eating instant noodles -- ramen, lo mein, glass, Thai, or otherwise — twice or more a week was associated with cardiometabolic syndrome, a collection of abnormalities affecting the body’s cardiovascular, renal, and metabolic systems.

Go here for the full story.