Saturday, March 28, 2015

Have you checked our events calendar today?

Are you tired of having to go from site to site and publication to publication to find out the latest information on cooking classes, wine dinners, beer dinners, restaurant weeks, specialty food events, grand opening festivities, tasting events ... and then only finding bits and pieces?

We long ago solved that problem. Join the people who have been taking advantage of our Capital Region Food & Drink Events Calendar, arguably the most thorough and linked compilation of events involving, well, food and drink.

If you're not already regularly checking it out on a daily basis, it might be helpful to acquire the habit so you're always fully informed on upcoming events of all sorts.

And, if you're part of a business or organization putting together an event, don't forget to let us know well in advance so we can publicize it.


Hudson's Fish & Game a Beard design finalist

Inside Fish & Game
The Hudson restaurant Fish & Game is being noticed for more than its innovative menu. It was announced this week that it is one of just six venues being considered for top honors in the James Beard Foundation awards' restaurant design category,

The winner will be announced in May, along with victors in numerous other categories, both nationally and regionally. The nominees were announced by foundation president Susan Ungaro at a breakfast the Beard House in New York. The Fish & Game selection was the only finalist in any category for an Upstate New York venue. Yono's in Albany made it as far as the semifinals for its wine list.

The full list of finalists in all categories is available online.

The design awards, part of the JBF Awards since 1994, recognize "beautiful, effective designs that seamlessly intertwine the theme and setting of a restaurant’s environment.”

The two-year-old Fish & Game is located in a renovated 19th Century blacksmith's shop at 13 South Third Street in the heart of the Columbia County city. It is a collaborative venture of co-chefs Zakary Pelaccio, author of "Eat With Your Hands," Jori Jayne Emde and Kevin Pomplun, and their partner, Patrick Milling Smith. Pelaccio first gained culinary notice by creating the Malaysian-inspired Fatty Crab restaurant in Manhattan, then Fatty 'Cue in Brooklyn.

The menu, much of which is Hudson Valley sourced, changes weekly and seasonally. Some of their ingredients come from their own Fish & Game Farm, located about five miles from the city, where they keep chickens and bees, tap maple trees for syrup, and grow a variety of fruits and vegetables.

The restaurant presently is closed for a winter vacation, but will reopen on Saturday, April 4. It also will serve a special Easter menu by reservation from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday, April 5. Phone: 518-822-1500.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Albany sets public review of food truck program

One food truck operating in the city.
ALBANY -- Food trucks keep growing in number and popularity. So, how are they doing in the state's capital city? That's what Albany representatives want to find out.

Interested parties are invited to attend a City Hall meeting at 5 p.m. Monday to discuss what can be done to improve last year's "Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program." It ran from August through October, and the city is looking to unveil an updated program this spring.

Last year, the program applied to curbside and sidewalk vendors only. Under city code, those two and ice cream truck vendors are the only defined types of food vendors allowed to do business in the city. Permits were sold for three vendors to locate in Washington Park and Lincoln Park, and five in public rights-of-way. A $200 application fee was required.

Farmhouse ale author at Ruck pairing event

TROY -- Ruck U. actually is a thing as opposed to a comment. The latest in a series of educational beer tastings present by The Ruck beer emporium will be a "Farmhouse Ale & Wing Pairing" on April Fool's Day.

The guest speaker at the event, set for 7 to 9 p.m. next Wednesday, will be Phil Markowski, author of "Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition."

Markowski began his professional brewing career in 1989 with the New England Brewing Company of Norwalk, CT, was brewmaster at the Southampton Publick House, and now is at Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford, CT. He has earned 11 gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO, and was honored with the Institute For Brewing Studies' Russell Scherer Award for innovation in craft brewing at the 2003 Craft Brewers Conference.

Reservations, which may be made by calling The Ruck or by e-mail, are $25 and, as always, space is limited. The Ruck is located at 104 Third Street. Phone: 273-1872.

DZ Restaurants hosting job fair in Saratoga

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The DZ Restaurants group that operates four venues plus its own farm is planning a job fair.

Applicants for both kitchen and front-of-the-house positions at all DZ operations will be able to apply and be interviewed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Forno Bistro, 541 Broadway.

"We value and look for certain qualities in an employee," says the company announcement. "We love to have applicants who share our passion for the foodservice industry, and our desire to work in a professional, innovative, atmosphere. DZ Restaurants encourages employees to grow and develop their skills and personality while they work with us. We have a rigorous training program of both classroom and dining room work. We offer continuing education in food, wine, and customer service to all of our restaurant employees."

Applicants are asked to bring a resume and wear business casual attire. Those unable to attend can apply online.

The other DZ properties are its corporate headquarters at 63 Putnam Street, Chianti Il Ristorante at 18 Division Street and Boca Bistro at 384 Broadway, all in Saratoga Springs, and Pasta Pane at 18 Park Avenue in Clifton Park. The DZ Farm is located in Galway.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Today's ride on the Capital Region foodie-go-round


•  A very worthwhile charity cooking event is set for Saturday in Watervliet. A chili cookoff is set for 2 to 6 p.m. at The Dome, 13th Street and 2nd Avenue. It's a fundraiser for the David Fisher Upper Hudson Heroes organization that offers a variety of services to veterans. Competitors will include Deacon's Blues, Salty's Pub & Bistro, Elks Club, Local Flavor Cafe, Patrick's Pub, Black Bear Cafe, Stewarts, Schanz Beverage Center, 5 Star Chili, Liberty Tax, Platinum, Texas Roadhouse, Professor Java's Coffee Sanctuary and Mangia Rising, according to the event website. The day will include chili tasting, other foods, live music, rock wall climb, a bounce house and face painting for kids, and a silent auction. Admission is $10 for adults, kids 13 and under free.


• Taco Bell Corp. has a few more changes up its sleeve. New CEO Brian Niccol says he wants the company to “break out of the sea of sameness” at breakfast, but also wants to test delivery service and expand its catering.The fast-food chain today unveiled its new Biscuit Taco, along with a new crispy chicken option and a marketing campaign designed to call more attention to its breakfast service. The new taco features a flattened buttermilk biscuit, folded over like a taco, stuffed with crispy fried chicken and topped with either jalapeƱo-honey sauce or Southern-style gravy. Another version is available with scrambled eggs, cheese, and bacon or sausage. "Nobody has anything like this," Niccol said. Taco Bell also will open new units in shipping containers, restaurants with open kitchens, and units with a smaller footprint designed for urban locations.


• Mario Batali and his partners have received much praise for Ealy, their Manhattan food hall and dining destination. Now, a French-inspired competitor is set to open on Monday. Restaurateur Peter Poulakakos's 30,000-square-foot Le District in the Brookfield Place development of lower Manhattan will include a market area, patisserie, a crepe counter, a waffle and ice cream stand, a bar, a florist, two stand-alone restaurants, and on and on. Go here for the full story.

Help is here for restaurateurs on menu labeling

In November, the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released a very complicated set of regulations it labeled "Guidance for Industry: Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments; Small Entity Compliance Guide.”

Confusion ensued. But, help is available to make things a bit clearer.

Nation's Restaurant News (NRN), the leading chronicler of the restaurant industry, has a thorough explanation of the key points of the requirements. It was written by Anita Jones-Mueller, president and founder of, based on a special presentation to NRN and Healthy Dining by Felicia Billingslea, the FDA’s director of food labeling and standards.

Berkshires icon marking 25th year at the top

Chef Dan Smith
In my travels as a restaurant critic, I often was pleased when I ventured east to the Berkshires, an area replete with good cooks

Among the best chefs I ever encountered there was Dan Smith, chef-owner of John Andrews - A Farmhouse Restaurant in South Egremont, MA.

Smith, called the "architect of modern Berkshire cooking" by Travel & Leisure magazine, is celebrating his 25th year in business this year. To mark that occasion, Smith and five sous chefs will present a five-course meal prix fixe meal next Tuesday, March 31, in recognition of the chefs who helped shape the kitchen over the past two decades. A series of other special dinners will follow.

You can read the profile by going here.

Epicurean cartoonery

Saranac closing will cut HoJo grand total back to 2

A vintage Howard Johnson poster.
SARANAC LAKE -- Last summer, the number of once-ubiquitous Howard Johnson's restaurants in the entire United States increased from two to three when a former HoJo reopened in Lake George Village after a two-year closure.

On Tuesday, March 31, the number will go back down to two when the HoJo venue in this Essex County tourist spot, closes for good, according to an announcement made Wednesday. In addition to the Lake George location, the only other HoJo now in operation is in Bangor, Maine.

Mike Butler, owner of the Lake Placid location at 2099 Saranac Avenue, announced the sale to another local restaurant company that will move their operation there. Butler's father, Ron, opened the restaurant 58 years ago. He had been down to only a few of the original menu items that once made the restaurant chain so popular.

The sale will allow relocation of Simply Gourmet and the Big Mountain Deli & Creperie from 1983 Saranac Avenue, where it has operated since 2006, according to Holly Healy. Eat Simply, the parent company of Simply Gourmet and Big Mountain Deli & Creperie, is owned by Holly and Mickey Healy and Holly's daughter Phoebe Burns. Once the move has been completed, Simply Gourmet will operate in one part of the HoJo structure, a new restaurant called the 'Dack Shack in another, and a 100-seat event space called the Butler Room will be created in the rear of the building.

Holly Healy, in an interview with the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, said the 'Dack Shack concept will be a "high-end roadside diner" serving a variety of all-American food, with particular emphasis on burgers and the retention of the classic HoJo clam roll.

The new menu is being created by Suzy Delucia, Simply Gourmet's executive chef, and chef Rob Borden, who last season appeared on three episodes of the Food Network's "Guy's Grocery Games." However, Richard Walos, a former chef for The Cowboy, will be top chef in the 'Dack kitchen which will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and have a full bar. Borden, incidentally, is married to Suzie Butler Borden, of the Butler family of the local Howard Johnson's.

At one time, Howard Johnson's was the largest restaurant chain in the United States, numbering more than 1,000 at its high point. The familiar orange roofs and 28-flavor ice cream menu were hallmarks of the chain founded in Quincy, Mass., in 1925 by Howard Deering Johnson. It quickly acquired the affectionate nickname HoJo.

The chain branched out into motels in 1954 when it opened its first, in Savannah, Georgia. After 1986 the restaurants and motels were franchised separately. Even though the restaurants virtually disappeared, today there are about 500 HoJo hotels operating in 14 countries.