Tuesday, June 27, 2017

State changes wine-flavored ice cream sales portion size

UPDATE (6/27/17): Wine-infused ice cream is a tiny niche in the food industry, but New York State nevertheless has it within its grasp. The state, never one to miss a chance to regulate somehing no matter how small, had restricted sales of the product to a pint size or larger. However, that now has changed with Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing  a bill that will allow sales of the dessert in “smaller containers.” Keep reading for some context to this momentous piece of legislation that its own sponsors apparently lost track of at one point.

(Originally published 5/25/17)

Headline: Info absent on burning question about wine ice cream

Some time ago, I attempted to get an update on pending legislation involving the serving size of wine ice cream in New York, apparently a matter of the usual governmental nanny state restrictions. I was unable to get any information from the members of both houses of the New York State Legislature supposedly trying to amend the rules. More on that in a bit.

Apparently there are no rigid restrictions on using whiskey in another type of food, if one considers slushies actual food. The Dragonfyre Distillery in Marathon, Cortland County, today announced it will be making and selling whiskey slushies this summer.

"BREAKING NEWS! The slushy machine is here!!! ," trumpeted Dragonfyre's Facebook message. "We will be serving whiskey slushys from now on! What's your preference?
Strawberry Daiquiri
Arnold Palmers
Pina Cola da
Blueberry pomegranate
Prohibition Moon
Apple Moon
Let us know what you want, this is just the "short" list!"

Now, back to the topic of wine ice cream.

Back on March 22, I reported that "The State Senate today approved S4265, a bill introduced by Sen. Joseph Griffo (R-47), to allow a change in the portion size of wine ice cream. The current minimum container size is one pint. Griffo, the deputy senate majority whip, seeks to meet what he says is consumer demand for smaller containers of wine ice cream for weddings, fundraisers, recreational tours, etc. A companion bill that needs to be passed next is being introduced in the Assembly by William Magee (D-121), chairman of the Agriculture Committee. New York is the only state with minimum size requirements."

Since then, I have tried to find out the status of the proposal. A call to Griffo's office was unproductive because the staffer who answered my call had no idea what I was talking about, even though it is his boss's legislation. Even worse at Magee's office, where a promised return phone call has not materialized and an emailed inquiry has been ignored.

Which leads me to suspect that, even though this is a small matter in the larger universe of governance and therefore beneath the legislators' purportedly pushing it, we will see during the next election cycle some reference to this "consumer friendly" effort that both legislators suddenly will remember they have attached their names to.

• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Notes On Napkins
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail

Mastrantuono gets top chef job at 15 Church in Saratoga

Michael Mastrantuono
Michael Mastrantuono is headed north for his next gig. The popular young chef, 26, has been named the successor to Brady Duhame at the restaurant 15 Church in Saratoga Springs, effective next Wednesday July 5.

Mastrantuono has been the head chef at Roux in Slingerlands for 14 months after 2½ years in the top role at MezzaNotte Ristorante in Guilderland. His accolades include being listed in the 40-under-40 “Restaurant Stars On the Rise” compilation in the March issue of the trade publication FSR Magazine.

Duhame left 15 Church to become director of culinary operations for Saratoga Hospitality Group. That company's major venue is Max London’s, but includes Mrs. London's Boutique Bakery, the Saratoga Stadium sports bar, and the pub Gaffney’s. He will oversee food at all four businesses.

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Openings & Closings & Etc. (updated)

• The latest reports on restaurant openings, closings and transitions from the Greater Capital Region, including the Catskills, Southern Vermont and the Berkshires.


Slidin' Dirty, which began as a food truck operation before opening its first bricks-and-mortar restaurant, in Troy, will open its new Schenectady location at 512 State Street on Thursday. Owners Tim and Brooke Taney and local officials will hold a grand opening event at 4 p.m. The 4,000-square-foot space includes a bar, seating for 110 people and an outdoor patio.

a la Mode, a frozen yogurt and specialty waffles shop from Angelo Mazzone's PRIME Business Dining, opened today on  the concourse level of the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

• In a fairly quick turnaround, a Colonie restaurant damaged by a June 10 fire is planning to reopen sometimes this week. Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill, located at 1557 Central Avenue just west of Wolf Road, is awaiting the outcome of final inspections. The restaurant was evacuated during the Saturday night dinner hour 16 days ago, and the fire was quickly contained. Curiously, I can find no updates on the situation on the business's Facebook page or website.

• A blast from the past. A casual breakfast-and-lunch venue called Mike’s Neba has opened at 16 Edison Avenue, Schenectady, in the former longtime location of Vic's Diner. The new venture is owned by the Campana family, who had a Mike’s-Neba franchise in the 1990s and apparently retained the rights to the name and recipes, including the signature hot roast beef sandwich. The original Mike's was started in Albany in 1957 by Mike Davis as Mike’s Submarines, and he later created the Neba Roast Beef Sandwiches brand. Hours: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Phone: (518) 901-0219.


• An unusual, for this region, restaurant called Slavonian European CafĂ© is being created at 189 Lark Street, Albany. Slavonia is a historic region of Croatia with a wide range of cultural cuisine influences, including Turkish from its days as a state conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Slavonia also is one of Croatia's winemaking areas, so we may wind up seeing some wines not usual offered here.


Bangkok Bistro Thai Restaurant & Martini Bar will close after business this Saturday, July , according to a notice posted on its Facebook page. No reason was given in the statement revealing the decision and thanking everyone for their continued support throughout our four  years in Colonie" at 1619 Central Avenue.


• O'Neill's Shire Pub, a popular restaurant and bar in Delhi, Delaware County,  has been pronounced structurally sound after a fire last week forced it to close. The owners said they plan to re-open after repairs are made. Investigators said the fire was accidental due to  spontaneous combustion of cleaning towels that were recently laundered, according to a media news release that concluded, “The Delhi community businesses and residents came together once again and generously donated food and drinks for all responders.” O'Neill's is located at 123 Main Street in the village. Phone: (607) 746-8758.


•  Hong Yu, who cooked and served dumplings on the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, VT, for 17 years, has made her final appearance there with her her food cart Hong's Chinese Dumplings, reports the arts publication 7 Days. "Yu is planning to open a year-round dumpling shop at 77 Pearl Street, site of the former Radio Deli. The family is trying to raise money to open the business in about five weeks, her daughter Lisa Li said. They need $20,000 to $30,000 for a hood system and permitting, she said."

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Monday, June 26, 2017

Albany firm expands its Plattsburgh Butcher Block

Inside the new Butcher Block Tavern room. (photo provided)
The Butcher Block restaurant in Plattsburgh, which used to have a Colonie sibling until owner White Management Corp. of Albany shuttered it, certainly isn't going away. In fact, it has enlarged and expanded its bar area so much that the space now has its own name.

The new Butcher Block Tavern takes up most of the eastern side of the restaurant that used to be home to a solarium dining area, a feature both Butcher Blocks once shared. The change marks the end of a 42-year-old design.

Curiously, when White Management closed its 28-year-old Butcher Block in Colonie in 2010 to retool and reopen it as Central Steak, one of the main changes was elimination of the solarium dining room. Less than two years later, it went out of business.

The Plattsburgh changes were made to target millenials and older college students and their adult visitora at SUNY Plattsburgh, as well as people coming to town to take advantage of numerous activities connected with the Lake Champlain waterfront.  

The renovated section has a bar featuring regular, tall and low-rise tables, the latter paired with with lounge-style chairs. It also has three mixology stations to allow multiple bartenders to maneuver, and has added eight new taps, for a total of 20, with 12 reserved for craft beers. New hanging light fixtures augment the window wall of the solarium. A tavern menu has been created for the new space.

The original bar, which was built by owner David White's father, Frank White, now hangs above the bar area with the words "A Chip Off the Old" carved in it. The Butcher Block, located just off I-87 at 15 Booth Drive, was opened in  1975.

White Management, which closed a spate of restaurants several years ago, today also owns the Log Jam in Lake George, Mangia in Slingerlands, and Bountiful Bread in Guilderland,

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Update: Old Daley progressing on new Schenectady venue

Elliott Vogel
UPDATE 6/26/17):  The owners of the in-development Schenectady restaurant Daley on Yates have targeted a mid-August soft opening to be followed by a mid-September official debut. The $1.2 million venture will include a 3,000-square-foot-patio complete with fire pits. Inside, elements of the 19th Century building's history as a taxi garage and auto parts store will be preserved in the brick and wood decor. The business's request for permission to install a 34-by-60-inch sign that would hang over the city right-of-way on Yates Street is on the City Council's agenda for tonight. Yates is a short block connecting Union and Liberty streets.

(Originally published 5/2/17)

Headline: Old Daley getting back into fulltime restaurant sector

The people behind the Old Daley Custom Catering operation recently completed an exterior facelift of their Troy facility. But, that isn't the big news for the company. It is going back into the fulltime restaurant business.

Old Daley, headquartered in Troy's Lansingburgh section  and operator of the former Crooked Lake House in rural Averill Park that it uses as an events venue and as a restaurant in the winter months, is developing a new venture. Says co-owner Marty Keary:

"Great news. We're opening a new restaurant in Schenectady. It's opening in June/July. It's called Daley's on Yates, located at 10-12 Yates Street only a few minutes' walking distance to Proctor's theater and area nightlife. "

This is the third project announced for the same site in two years. In February 2015, it was announced that the city's first wine bar would be developed there. That did not happen. Then, in August that same year, Albany Distilling Company announced it would locate additional distilling facilities and a restaurant on the site. That, too, came to naught. 

Old Daley's Keary describes renovations to the former taxi garage as turning it into "a swanky space with great lighting, mid-century modern vibe and a phenomenal bar. There's big garage doors that open to a huge private, tree-lined patio with its own outside bar, dining and lounge areas with fire pits. You're gonna be blown away."

The chef is Elliott Vogel, a 2017 Rising Star Chef as part of the Albany Chefs' Food & Wine Festival. He has cooked at Normanside 165 in Delmar, Tala Bistro in Latham, and -- not coincidental to getting the new gig -- Old Daley On Crooked Lake. Vogel studied nursing at Maria College before changing gears to study at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.

Old Daley Custom Catering is a descendant of the former Old Daley Inn, a restaurant that operated for decades in Lansingburgh, then transitioned to a fulltime catering business, then reentered the restaurant sector to some degree at Crooked Lake in 2010 along with its catering work.

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Sunhee's among food projects on Troy Planning agenda

The Troy Restaurant Sunhee's Farm & Kitchen is planning to expand by adding outdoor seating behind its 95-97 Ferry Street venue.

The plan, submitted by Jinah Kim, is on the agenda for Wednesday's 6 p.m. meeting of the City Planning Commission to be held at City Hall, Hedley Building, River Street.

It is one of three food-related plans on the agenda. The others:

• A proposal from Jeff Jackson of Galway to occupy a vacant commercial building at 443 Fifth Avenue with a sports- themed restaurant. The building had at one time been home to Bad Ass  Burrito.

• A proposal from Hussein Logman of Troy to occupy a vacant commercial building at 3001 Sixrh Avenue with a grocery store.The venue formerly was the home of Catholic Charities of Rensselaer.
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Food & Wine gets new editor and new southern headquarters

The current issue
The center of Food & Wine magazine's focus is shifting, big time. The Time Inc. publication has announced a new editor barely a year after hiring one, and it is moving much of its  operations south -- waaay down south.

Food & Wine is moving to Birmingham, AL, to join several other Time Inc. publications such as Cooking Light and Southern Living. And, speaking of Cooking Light, its editor, Hunter Lewis, will become Food & Wine’s editor in chief, replacing Nilou Motamed who is leaving the post and the company. Motamed had taken over from Dana Cowin, who had edited the magazine for more than 20 years.

Food & Wine will be resident in a multimillion-dollar complex that houses 28 test kitchens and 13 photography bays and video studios. It was built in 2015. Food & Wine's test kitchen and photo studios in lower Manhattan will remain there, as will its digital team.
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Warren-Washington beverage trail awaits Cuomo's OK

If Governor Andrew Cuomo approves, as expected, a bill that passed both house of the State Leguislature before recess, a regional craft beverage and winemaking trail for Warren and Washington counties would be designarrated under a state Department of Transportation (DOT) program.

The Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce worked with State Sen. Elizabeth Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) on the  bill that each introduced in their respective chambers. What it would entail is placing signs along state roadways directing motorists to craft breweries, wineries and distilleries, as well as including such a trail in the state's advertising and marketing of the craft beverage industry.

The effort was buoyed by Travelocity and The American Distilling Institute recently putting the Glens Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area in its new index of top 10 small U.S. metro areas for craft spirits tourism.
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Friday, June 23, 2017

Morrisville State's brewery partner open for business

From the Oneida Dispatch
MORRISVILLE -- Morrisville State College partner Good Nature Farm Brewery is officially open for business.

Good Nature, a homegrown and family-owned craft brewery and tap room founded in 2010, has partnered with the college through the START-UP NY program, which creates tax-free areas associated with colleges and universities across the state in order to spur economic growth.

The partnership aligns with Morrisville State College’s implementation of a new food technology four-year degree program featuring three concentrations: brewing science and technology, agricultural marketing and food science. The curriculum will include 10 brewing courses, which will educate students on first-hand practical business experience with a large-scale production brewery. 
... The Morrisville State College Brewing Institute, located at the Copper Turret Restaurant and Brewhouse, will serve as a laboratory for students in the new program. ...
Go here for the full story.

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Openings & Closings & Etc.


• The Flying Chicken has announced it will celebrate its fifth anniversary at 122 4th Street in Troy in a unique way. By going out of business. Owner Ian Michael Hunter says the operation has not shown long-term financial viability. He said he may retool and reopen elsewhere, but his Facebook posting doesn't sound like it. It says, in part, " ... hold off on the tears and come help us put the fun in funeral!"


• The Social House sports bar inside Via Entertainment in the ViaPort Rotterdam (formerly Rotterdam Square Mall) shopping complex is temporarily closed. Via Entertainment announced Thursday on its Facebook page hat the Social House "will be CLOSED for renovation" and will resume in August "with a fresh new look, brand new menu and more!" The 4,000-square foot facility opened last year as a joint venture between Chris Marotta of Marotta's Pizza in Albany and Will Phan of LAX Restaurant & Lounge in Albany.


• Farmstead Flatbread, located in the former Sutton's Marketplace at 1066 Route 9, Queensbury, was briefly closed Thursday by the state Department of Taxation & Finance because of what it says was an unpaid $62,405 unpaid tax bill. However, roughly an hour later it reopened despite having been papered with the state state's familiar orange "seized" posters which were taken down by mid-afternoon. A check with the business today confirmed it remains open for lunch and dinner service from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Phone: (518)741-6911.

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chain Links

Your connections to the latest news items affecting chains operating in the Greater Capital Region or reported to be looking into locating in the area:

McDonald’s focuses on supply chain improvement

KFC's Zinger is taking flight Thursday

Moe’s invading grocery stores with Frozen Breakfast Bowls

Millennials killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings, Applebee's

Cinnabon launches new Chillattas for summer 

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Epicurean Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Brunelle gets top chef post at Gideon Putnam Hotel

Luca Brunelle
The much-traveled Derek "Luca" Brunelle has been named executive chef at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs.

Brunelle has a broad range of local kitchens on his resume, most prominent among them including Brown's Brewing in Troy , Nicole's and Jack's Oyster House in Albany, Reel Seafood Company in Colonie, and Cornells in Schenectady.

Brunelle is a native of Colonie who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America after studying finance at the University at Albany. It was at UAlbany, during a "Godfather" phase he and some campus buddies went through, that he picked up the nickname "Luca" from the Luca Brasi character.

The Gideon Putnam Hotel is owned by the state and operated by Delaware North Cos. Parks & Resorts of Buffalo. It offers dining option in Putnam 's Restaurant and Bar and on Putnam's Patio. It is located at 24 Gideon Putnam Road in the Saratoga Spa State Park. Phone: (866) 890-1171.
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Ground Round expanding, but not back to the Capital Region

Ground Round Grill & Bar, which once had a strong presence with multiple locations in the Capital Region before shrinking into a tight cluster of New England venues, is on an expansion kick. However, it is far from its home base.

When the company opened a location in Rutland, VT, in May in a former Ponderosa Steakhouse, it said it also had other places in mind. The company, headquartered in Freeport, ME, has just announced it will open four new locations in two more states -- three in South Dakota and one in Ohio.

The new venues will be a combination of converted restaurants and brand-new facilities using a prototype just developed by the company.

At one time, Ground Round, which was founded by Howard Johnson's in 1969 as a line of family restaurants, had locations in Schenectady, Albany, Guilderland and elsewhere. In February 2004, the franchisor for Ground Round filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and in the process, all 59 corporate-owned restaurants -- nearly half of the restaurants then open -- abruptly closed their doors. The company  since has undergone major financial and business model restructuring.

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Bill would make NYS beverage tastings fully sales-tax-exempt

A bill passed by both houses of the State Legislature has been sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo to give licensed breweries, distilleries, and cideries the same sales tax exemption for tastings that wineries now have.

The bill would allow the exemption even if vendors he state Senate and Assembly have passed a bill charge for the tasting. Under current law, any wine, beer, cider, or liquor tasting that is provided free of charge is exempt from having to impose the state sales and use tax. However, wineries are granted a sales tax exemption even if they charge for the tasting.

“As the number of breweries and distilleries increases across New York, including many farm-based operations, we must ensure that we provide a level playing field for those in the industry,” said Erie County Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, (R-C-I). “Right now, these businesses don’t enjoy the same sales tax benefits provided to wineries. That’s not fair to them or their customers.”

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook