Monday, July 21, 2014

Through the Capital Region's foodie revolving door

OPENING

• The only Red Square is, once again, in Moscow. The Albany club that has operated under that name since 2006 has been converted into a Louisiana-style restaurant called Parish Public House. The 388 Broadway venue will open at 8 p.m. next Thursday (July 24). The owner is Francis Verrett, a native of Louisiana who headed north after Hurricane Katrina. He says of the venture, "The Parish is a celebration of Louisiana's Cajun culture -- not the surface-scratching New Orleans/Bourbon Street cliché, the heart of Acadiana. Through food, drinks, music and camaraderie, our goal is to invoke the spirit found at a Cajun Fais Do-Do each and every night." A "fais do-do" is a Cajun term for a party. The menu is expected to be based on Cajun recipes from the Louisiana heartland, with at least 17 beers on tap. Food will be served 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday, with the bar open later. Live music will be presented Thursday through Saturday. Phone: 465-0444.

DR. BARGAINHUNTER'S REPORT

Chianti Il Ristorante today began a three-day discount offer to mark the Saratoga thoroughbred racing season. On orders of $60 or more placed no later than 5:30 p.m., the restaurant will make a 20% discount on the total bill, excluding alcoholic beverages, tax and tip, through Wednesday of this week. The restaurant is located at 18 Division Street in Saratoga Springs, just west of Broadway. Phone: 580-0025.

Portofino's restaurant, located just west of the Latham Circle on Route 9, has a $19.99 deal tonight it says will feed four people. It includes a salad, bread and dessert to accompany your choice of Chicken Italiano (grilled chicken, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil over penne with a balsamic glaze), baked ziti with meatballs and eggplant with penne. A new healthy option also is available for $23 -- something called Pasta Capinada (summer squash, sundried tomatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes in a light oil and garlic sauce with a splash of orange juice) over penne.
• Meanwhile, Jimmy Casey's has a Monday and Tuesday night special that offers a four-course dinner for just $20 from 4 to 10 p.m. The menu includes fresh bread, salad and choice from among stuffed portabello mushroom, New Orleans crab cake, eggplant rollatini or fresh mozzarella with onion and balsamic glaze; choice from among baked haddock, chicken Marsala, hazlenut chicken and pasta Bolognese, and a dessert choice from among vanilla ice cream with a topping choice, chocolate mousse, warm fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. The restaurant is located at 77-79 Washington Avenue in Rensselaer. Phone: 463-3318.

11 'Best of' awards for NYS wines in Long Beach test

The Long Beach Grand Cru Wine Competition marked its 20th anniversary over the weekend, and New York State wines celebrated it by hauling in 11 Double Gold/Best of Class medals, 19 Golds, and dozens of Silver and Bronze medals.

The California competition, run by noted wine writer Dan Berger, resulted in Double Gold/Best of Class awards for:

• 21 Brix Ella's White
• 21 Beix's Ellatawba
• Belhurst Estate Winery's 2013 Dry Riesling
• Belhurst Estate Winery's Isabella Sparkling
• Chateau Frank's 2008 Blanc de Noirs
• Coyote Moon's 2013 Fire Boat Red
• Coyote Moon's 2013 Marquette
• Coyote Moon's 2013 Twisted Sister
• Fulkerson Winery's 2013 Gruner Veltliner
• Goose Watch Winery's 2013 Diamond
• Thirsty Owl Winery's 2013 Snow Owl

In addition, Gold medals went to 21 Brix's Ella's Red, 2013 Marquis, and 2011 Vidal Ice Wine; Belhurst's Neptune and 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling; Coyote Moon's 2013 Brianna and 2012 La Crescent; Dr. Frank's 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling; Fulkerson's 2012 Vidal Blanc; Goose Watch's Snow Goose and 2012 Riesling/Gewurztraminer; Swedish Hill's Naturel and 2013 Vidal Blanc; Thirsty Owl's 2013 Chardonnay, 2013 Gewurztraminer, and 2013 Traminette; Wagner Vineyards' 2012 Dry Riesling Caywood East Vineyard, 2012 Riesling Ice, and 2012 Semi-Dry Riesling.

New York State influences were evident in some other major winners. The Best White Wine was Friendship School White from St. James Winery in Missouri, a blend dominated by Cayuga White (created by Cornell University). Close behind were a Seyval Blanc (French hybrid) from Wollesheim Winery in Wisconsin; Goose Watch Diamond (a Native variety) from New York; and a Traminette (another Cornell creation) from Maryland.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Local chef's Food Network appearance next Sunday

On the set of the Food Network competition show.
When last we updated you on the peripatetic chef Sarah Fish, she had just left a gig cooking at Wade Farm for one at More Perecca's in Schenectady. That's until the new restaurant she and Josh Sheehan are slowly developing on Congress Street in Troy is open to take the place of The Hungry Fish Cafe & Country Store she closed in Troy after moving it from Wynantskill where she operated it for the first year of its existence

Got it?

Somewhere in all that ricocheting around she had time to tape an appearance on the Food Network's "Guy's Grocery Games." As in all such foodie competitions, participants are contractually prohibited from revealing how the episode turned out.

The waiting soon will be over. Fish says her episode is scheduled to be shown at 8 p.m. next Sunday, July 27.

The Guy Fieri-hosted series, now in its second season, is set in a 15,500 square foot supermarket built specifically for the show in a former warehouse in Santa Rosa, CA. Contestants have to cook with ingredients from the store, overcoming a variety of obstacles, time constraints and other gimmicks.

It is operated like a real store, stocked with 20,000 or more items. You can access a slideshow here that shows the operation.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dr. Bargainhunter's report for the weekend

Carrabba's Italian Grill has an interesting summertime bargain offer: "Classic & Creation Combinations." It essentially is a two-entree meal pairing one of the chain's standard menu items with one new entree item. For example, the Chicken Bryan that has long been a big seller paired with the new prosciutto-wrapped pork tenderloin. The half-dozen or so combo meals include soup or salad plus a side dish. Price: $14.90.Carrabba's is located just west of the Northway exit at Route 7 in Latham.

• The annual restaurant promotional event "A Taste of Guilderland" that runs Sunday through Saturday will see 10 establishments offering special three-course menus for $20.14. You can get the details here.

Pasta Pane has introduced two bargain deals. One is called "Menu Dell'Estate" that allows patrons to choose three courses from a limited menu for $19. The other is a sangria party from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Monday (July 21) that offers menu samplings and complimentary red and white sangria on the patio, accompanied by live music. The restaurant is located at 18 Park Avenue, Clifton Park. Phone: 371-5762.

German food fan alert: Troy banquet hall for sale

The familiar "banquet haus" entrance.
TROY -- For those who enjoy the cuisine at the Troy Germania Hall, better load up. The property, best known over the past 30+ years for its Friday night suppers when the cultural club it is open to the public, is up for sale.

The asking price is $360,000 for the building which contains a large meeting hall with a service kitchen, a bar and caretaker's apartment. The basement level includes a bar, dining room and kitchen. The parking lot holds 40+ vehicles, and a two-family rental property is included in the package. Here's a link to the listing broker.

In addition to the Friday suppers, the organization holds two annual public events -- Bauernball in May and Bavarian Night in November, each a large celebrations of German culture, food and music.

The 94,00-square-foot building is located at 309 Third Avenue at 107th Street in the city's Lansingburgh section. On Fridays, in addition to the dinners served on the rathskeller level, live German music is provided.

Here's a look at the current menu, which changes each Friday:

1st Fridays
Beef rouladen, $14.95
Chef's choice chicken, $13.95

2nd Fridays 
Jaeger schnitzel (pork), $14.95
Meat loaf, $13.95

3rd Fridays
Prime rib, $16.95
Roast pork, $13.95

4th Fridays
Sauerbraten, $14.95
Turkey, $13.95

5th Fridays
Kasseler rippchen (pork), $13.95
Liver with bacon and onions, $13.95

Always available: Pan-fried or broiled haddock, $12.95; creamed cod, $12.95; wurst platter, $12.95; soup and salad bar only, $8.95.

Included with each meal are soup and salad bar, choice of potato pancakes or mashed potatoes; vegetable; dessert (specialty desserts extra), and coffee, tea or milk.

Update 2: September return for resuscitated Morrette's

Morrette's King Steak House closes.
UPDATE (7/19/14): Fans of the old Morrette's King Steak House will be happy to know its new owners plan to reopen it after Labor Day. Frank and Kathleen Martin are working on refreshing the 67-year-old landmark that has been around since well before either of them was born. They plan to keep many of the signature menu items but will add several "healthier" choices.

UPDATE (7/8/14):  A Schenectady restaurant landmark is being resuscitated. Morrette's King Steak House, which closed in May after 67 years in business, has been sold to Frank and Kathleen Martin of Scotia, owners of a nearby car lot who will reopen it under the same name with the same recipes, according to a report in The Gazette.

(Originally published 5/23/14)

SCHENECTADY -- In 1947, India and Pakistan gained their independence from England, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and first-class postage stamps went for three cents.

Oh yes, and Morrette’s King Steak House opened at 1126 Erie Boulevard.

The eatery went on to become a local institution that ran until today. That is when owner Micah Pasquariello, whose family bought the restaurant from founder Tony Morrette in 1973, closed the business, bringing to an end a 67-year run.

Morrette's served its signature steak sandwiches and plenty of other comfort food in huge numbers in the 1940s, '50s and '60s when General Electric and American Automotive both were big stuff in Schenectady, and the restaurant sat roughly midway between the two. In recent years, business had been a bit sparse by comparison to the gaudy years.

Pasquariello and his aunt Sandy Bielecki, the business manager, had been trying to sell the business, but that deal fell through.

“We’re making this decision for ourselves,” Bielecki told The Gazette. “It’s not taken lightly. It certainly makes it more difficult because we cared so much about our customers and the business itself. This is our home. We spent more waking hours here than we ever did at home.” He added that he had told his staff of 11 about the impending closure, so "All the employees are taken care of. They’ve all found new work.”

Even though Morrette's now is closed, Pasquariello says the business remains for sale.

A small 'Taste of Guilderland' set to begin on Sunday

GUILDERLAND --"A Taste of Guilderland" never ceases to amaze me by the relatively few restaurants that participate in the annual promotional event.

Just 10 establishments are listed as participants in the event, scheduled to run from Sunday through Saturday, July 27. Each of them will offer special three-course limited menus for $20.14.

Last year, 11 dining spots participated, up one from the previous year. Only five of those are on the list this year. The promotion is sponsored by the town’s Chamber of Commerce, which numbers nearly 30 restaurants and banquet facilities  among its members. Given the large number of restaurants within the borders of the sprawling town -- including those at Crossgates Mall and Stuyvesant Plaza as well as some smaller strip malls, the continually low participation in this event is puzzling.

This year's participants (some with love links to their special offerings):

Reel Seafood replaces top chef after a short stint

IN -- Maki
COLONIE -- Well, that didn't take long.

Dustin Aipperspach, hired just six months ago to run the kitchen at The Reel Seafood Co. when Aliki Serras took over the business from her father, LeGrande Serras, and redid everything from the menu to the decor, is out.

He will be succeeded next week as executive chef by Alan Maki. Maki cooked at Prime at Saratoga National from 2012 until last fall when he was promoted to executive sous chef at Angelo's 677 Prime in Albany. Both restaurants are owned by Mazzone Hospitality. He also has banquet and country club posts on his resume.

Serras told the Times Union she determined Aipperspach was not a good fit for the restaurant. For his part, Aipperspach told the TU he "decided to move on ... for another opportunity that better suits me.”

OUT -- Aipperspach
Aipperspach's background includes more than 23 years as a professional chef, 15 of those years in the Vail, CO, area. He owned and operated a restaurant in that tourist city before selling it and moving east to take the Reel Seafood position.

He did stub his toe in May when he provided a menu for his first wine-pairing dinner that promised Beluga caviar, an almost-impossible item considering the dinner price point and the fact that Beluga is on the endangered list and sale of it is banned in many countries. He backpedaled when quizzed about the item.

The Reel Seafood Co. is located at 195 Wolf Road, on the north end of the commercial strip. Phone: 458-2068.

Friday, July 18, 2014

From floating restaurants to Fit Food Fast

The old Friendly's being refitted as FX3.
QUEENSBURY -- Kevin Shufelt, who usually confines his restauranting efforts to operating floating seasonal eateries, is trying something different.

The owner of The Rusty Anchor in Hudson Shores Park, Watervliet, and formerly owner of the Riverfront Bar & Grill barge in Albany, has become a partner in a new restaurant.

Shufelt, who lives in Queensbury, and Joe McCrudden of Clifton Park are developing a quick-serve restaurant in a former Friendly's at 682 Glen Street (Route 9) at Glendale Drive, opposite Price Chopper.

The restaurant will be called FX3 - Fit Food Fast. The business plan is to open in early September, serving food the partners say will be the antithesis of typical greasy fast-food.

It includes such dishes as five different chicken sandwiches, six types of burgers, wraps, salads, snack wraps and something they're calling the "FX3 Energy Bowl" made with the customer's choice of protein (ground beef, chicken, tofu) and grain (quinoa, brown rice). The beverage choices will include an assortment of smoothies -- strawberries, banana and vanilla yogurt; mango, banana and vanilla yogurt; pineapple. banana and vanilla yogurt; coffee, vanilla yogurt, banana and chocolate syrup, and kale, apple and vanilla yogurt. You can get a look at the potential menu online.

The partners have been friends since childhood in Columbia County. While McCrudden's career path has been in marketing, Shufelt has built a local reputation for pushing the dining envelope. Back in September 1996, supported by a loan from the city development office, Shufelt founded the Riverfront on an converted barge anchored on the Hudson River waterfront.

It was the Capital Region's first floating restaurant. Not a bad idea for a region criminally short on waterside dining despite the prominence of a pair of majestic rivers cutting through it. Shufelt operated the Riverfront until 2011, and since 2006 has operated The Rusty Anchor a little north of the city.


Uncle Ben's recalls Ready Rice pouch products

Mars Food North America has recalled nearly 2,000 cases of its Uncle Ben's Ready Rice Garden Vegetable with Peas, Carrots & Corn pouch product.

Some pouches in the affected lot codes were filled with a different product that contains barley, a non-wheat source of gluten, which is not declared on the product packaging. No other lot codes or any other Uncle Ben's brand products are involved in the action.

The recalled pouch products bear a  “Best Before Date 06/15 MADE IN CANADA” with either of these Lot Codes printed on the package:

• 422GBBFP1L OR 422GBBFP1R
• 423AABFP1L OR 423AABFP1R

The product should be returned to where it was purchased.