Thursday, March 5, 2015

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


•  Guilderland's newest restaurant  is scheduled to open at noon Saturday at the former site of Inn Town. Nirvana Indian Restaurant will offer an opening special of 50% off its lunch buffet and for dine-in dinners. The address is 5189 Western Turnpike (Route 20). The phone number is 355-2000. And, the menu is available here.


Yono's, which has been operating as a pop-up restaurant in a conference room at the Hampton Inn & Suites while water damage from a broken pipe  was being repaired, has reopened. The flood occurred on February 16 when a pipe in the hotel flooded the adjoining Yono's and its sister operation, DP: An American Brasserie. DP reopened quickly, but the damage to Yono's was more extensive. The restaurants are located at 215 Chapel Street in downtown Albany.


Changes at chain restaurants operating in the Capital Region:

Subway -- Turkey Italiano Melt (turkey breast, Genoa salami, pepperoni, melted Provolone cheese, vegetables and vinaigrette blended with oregano, garlic and black pepper, suggested $4.25 for a 6-inch sandwich and $6.75 for a Footlong, available through spring.

Dunkin Donuts -- Spicy Omelet Breakfast Sandwich (egg, bacon, jalapeño peppers, red bell peppers, habanero and pepper Jack cheese, suggested $3.99 for a Big N’ Toasted sandwich, $1.59 for a Wake-Up Wrap, $3.79 for a Flatbread), Shamrock Sprinkles Donut (chocolate icing and a shamrock sprinkle mix, suggested 99 cents); Baskin-Robbins inspired coffee and latte (returning butter pecan and cookie dough flavors, and a new rocky road flavor, starting at $1.65 for hot or $2.05 for iced.

Menchies -- Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Slam Dunk, (peanut butter cups with frozen yogurt, around $3 for 8 ounces, without toppings), available through March.

Au Bon Pain -- Hot or Iced Salted Caramel Latte, $1.99 for medium, $2.50 for large, a new size;   Parmesan & Leek Hot Croissant, $3.29; Raspberry & Greek Nonfat Yogurt Parfait, $3.99; Asparagus & Pea Soup $3.99; Southwest Chicken Salad (marinated chicken, romaine lettuce, black beans, roasted corn, avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes, wontons and Southwest vinaigrette), $7.59; Chipotle Turkey & Avocado sandwich on ciabatta, $7.29; Chicken, Fig & Brie sandwich on a toasted baguette, $7.69; Mocha CroisBun Topped with Fresh Raspberries, $2.69; Raspberry Torsade (twisted glazed croissant filled with raspberry preserves);  $2.39, Lemon Poppy Seed Cake, $2.69, all available through May 3.

IHOP testing brand-new look; more changes to come

If you didn't see the IHOP logo on the wall, chances are you wouldn't have thought this is what the chain may want its venues to look like in the near future.

In an interview Tuesday with The Street, Julia Stewart, CEO of IHOP parent DineEquity Inc. said the company is beta testing a new design at 28 locations. If results are positive, the company may roll out the new look to franchisees late this year.

IHOP last week reported  6.1% increase in fourth-quarter same-store sales, the division's best quarterly results in more than a decade.

Last year, IHOP redesigned its menu to make it simpler, and plans to unveil more menu changes that will include food innovation and line extensions, as well as another rework of the menu design that will include fresh graphics, Stewart said.

Troy's Ruck gets zoning board OK to add rear patio

TROY -- The Ruck is expanding.

Dave Gardell's beer-centric pub and restaurant on Tuesday evening received, by a 4-0 vote, major variance approval from the city Zoning Board to add a rear patio to the establishment.

Says Gardell, obviously pleased by an absence of opposition to his plan, "A big step for Troy democracy [has] happened. Our neighborhood has spoken. ... There are so many thank you's I need to give, I will personally reach out to each and every one of you."

Plans call for work as soon as weather permits, and an opening in the early summer.

The Ruck regularly offers about 30 beers on tap, along with dozens of brands by the bottle and a regular schedule of "tap takeovers" that spotlight particular breweries' products.

The Ruck, which Gardell describes as an "all-nations pub," offers a bar and kitchen open seven nights a week; the bar until 4 a.m. and the kitchen until 1 a.m. It is located at 104 3rd Street. Phone: 273-1872.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Epicurean cartoonery

Update: Sonic makes Troy Schenectady Road site official

A typical Sonic drive-in.
UPDATE (3/4/15): As reported earlier, the Capital Region's first Sonic Drive-In will be located at 701 Troy Schenectady Road, formerly the site of Kings Buffet. The official announcement will be made Thursday afternoon when franchise representative Colleen Pierson is introduced at a sign-unveiling ceremony.

(Originally published 12/23/14)

It has been common knowledge since early this year that the Sonic chain of drive-in restaurants was coming to the Capital Region. What has not been known until today is precisely where.

Now we know -- to some degree. An announcement today by the chain said it will open eight franchised venues in the next seven years -- in the Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park and Amsterdam communities. However, we still don't know precisely where in those communities.

It is part of Sonic's plan announced early this year to add 1,000 U.S. locations in the next decade, which would expand its presence from 44 states to 50.

The franchise agreement for this area is with a company called Fast Eats LLC, which will open its first Sonic restaurant in Latham in the spring of 2015.

By now, many TV viewers are familiar with parts of the Sonic menu, courtesy of the two jokers in the ubiquitous commercials. For more information on the menu, go here

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


• Each year The Business Review compiles a list of young business people it thinks are worthy of note. The compilation is called "40 Under 40." This year's group includes a number of people in the hospitality and food fields: Sarah Baluch, director of restaurant sales, BBL Hospitality (Recovery Room restaurants and other properties); Natasha Pernicka, executive director, The Food Pantries for the Capital Districtality, and Brian Viglucci, owner, BM&T Management Group (the Albany restaurants Cafe Madison, The Point, Junior's, Madison Pour House, The Beer Belly, The Pub). You can see the entire lineup here.


• The state's "Taste NY" program keeps expanding into unusual venues. The latest is the Times Union Center in downtown Albany. In a statement, Governor Andrew Cuomo expanded the now-widespread "farm to table" food movement to include a "farm to fan" effort. It was revealed today that the entertainment complex will promote New York agricultural products through the branding initiative, selling food and beverages from such sources as Old World Provisions in Troy, Yonder Farms in Valatie, The Ice Cream Man in Greenwich, Brown's Brewing in Troy and the Cooperstown Cheese Co. New York products will be sold by current and new vendors at the arena. The "Taste NY" program has already placed food and beverage items in Thruway stops, in large state government office complexes, and the like.


• In the mood for a hand-spun Mint Oreo Milkshake from Häagen-Dazs? They're being offered for a limited time at Smashburger. Locally, you'll find the chain venues at 81 Wolf Road, Colonie (487-4099), and 46 Marion Avenue, Saratoga Springs (871-1801). If you're not familiar with Smashburger, a fairly new entry into the Capital Region chain burger niche, don't be fooled by its name, Although it presents itself primarily as a burger joint, it has nearly as many varieties of chicken sandwiches. You can see the entire menu here.


• The Saratoga Winery, which schedules as many different food and entertainment events as it has types of wine, will hold a "Wine Glass Painting Party" from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26. For $25, participants will get a glass of wine or beer plus cheese and crackers, paints and brushes, instruction and two wine glasses to paint. Reservations, which are mandatory by March 23, may be made by calling 584-9463. The winery is located at 462 Route 29, Saratoga Springs.


DiCarlo's Gentleman's Club, which had been offering its patrons bar snacks and cheesecake, has added an actual menu, the latest change under new operators Tess Collins and Shy Abbasi of McGeary’s Pub in Albany who took over the operation and rtenovated it last fall. Their menu includes burgers, salads, appetizers and some dinner offerings such as "hog wings" (mini-pork shanks), sausage and peppers, steak and chicken. The club, located at 1165 Central Avenue, will hold a grand-reopening weekend Thursday through Saturday, March 19-21.

Baking a Pi for a once-in-a-lifetime event

Apple Pi (note the numbers)
What are you planning to bake for "Pi Day"?

That is not a typographical error. Those of you who recall your high school classes may know the mathematical constant for the Greek letter π -- pronounced "pie" but spelled without the "e" -- which signifies the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, 3.1415.

(Actually, it can be strung out to an infinite series of numbers, but 3.1415 is the short-hand version.)

Each March 14, numbers fans celebrate Pi Day, but since this year matches the numerical constant 3.1415, it is being called the Century Pi Day. We'll not see its like again.

All that apart, it brings us back to pie, one of the few sweets I enjoy. When I was working in daily journalism, it was traditional to have several kinds of cake available when anyone retired or otherwise left the company. In my case, my reticence about sweets in general but enjoyment of pies in particular led to six different kinds being served. Ah, memories.

Although I usually politely refuse desserts, which used to be a problem when I was a restaurant critic, a homemade cherry pie always gets an exception. And my late grandmother (actually not so late; she would have turned 129 last month if she could have just hung in there), who was a wonderful baker, could always rope me in with something called Montgomery pie, a Pennsylvania Dutch concoction that was sort of a cross between a Boston cream pie and a shoofly pie.

Sweets aside, I also like shepherd's pie, chicken pot pie, and meat empanadas, those little folded-over mini-pies from ancient Iberia.

If you're looking for inspiration for Pi Day in the kitchen, here are some other suggestions:

How to Make a Pi Day Pie (from wikiHOW)
10 Pies for Pi Day (from Mental Floss)
14 Pies for National Pi Day (from

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cuomo aide 'shocked' food truck e-mails killed

From the Times Union:

"Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top racing and gaming adviser was 'aghast' to learn that his e-mails concerning the ouster of the Wandering Dago food truck from the Saratoga Race Course had been deleted from his account — despite a reporter’s Freedom of Information Law request and a lawsuit involving communications related to the truck’s banishment. ...

"The owners of the Schenectady-based Wandering Dago, Andrea Loguidice and Brendan Snooks, filed suit in late August 2013 against top officials at the state Office of General Services and NYRA, claiming that the truck had been rejected by OGS’s summer lunch program on the Empire State Plaza and banished from the race track due to state officials’ objections to its name. (Loguidice filed a separate lawsuit last fall, claiming that she was fired from her job as an attorney for the Department of Environmental Conservation due to her connection to the truck.)"

Go here for the full story.

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


• One El Mariachi Mexican restaurant in downtown Albany has been closed for more than a year after a fire. However, a message on its website says renovations are nearly complete at the 289 Hamilton Street location, near the state DMV building. So, look for service to resume mid-month. Owners Patty Bermejo-Bhola and Freddie Bhola have kept the original El Mariachi, at 144 Washington Avenue, running during the closure of the sister venue.


•  A reminder that the annual Hudson Valley Restaurant Week will begin next Monday (March 9) and run through March 22, making it again one of those not-really-a-week promotional events that pop up all over the state. Last year's event had 180+ restaurants, but this year a record 205 have signed up to participate. You can get all the details on the event here.


Figures from the organizers of the Hopping Mac 'n' Cheese Bowl held last weekend show attendance  of 2,054 people, a 22% jump from the prior year. That's an interesting figure since this was the first year the fundraiser for the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York was held at Siena College after five years at a Wolf Road hotel in Colonie. Net income was a little over of more than $47,000, making the total raised by the event over six years to more than $200,000.

Dueling beer fests coming up on Saturday

Screen shot 2015-03-02 at 4.27.14 PMAnyone who can't find a beer sample they like in the Capital Region this Saturday won't really be trying.

Two beer festivals are planned for the same day, one in downtown Albany and one in suburban Colonie. Take your pick. Of course, if you have a designated driver available, you can try visiting both.

The first to begin will be the annual "Winter Brewfest," scheduled for 1 to 10 p.m. at The Armory Sports & Convention Arena, better known as the Washington Avenue Armory. It will turn a cavernous venue into what organizers describe as “craft beer sampling in an Irish Pub setting.”

Upon admission, visitors will be given a souvenir sampling glass. Tickets are $37 in advance, $47 at the door. VIP tickets are $57 and $67. Designated drivers can get $12 tickets at the door. Free water and soda will be available. No one under 21 will be admitted. An array of brewers and beer reps will be on hand to discuss the various beers. Vendors and live Irish music are planned. The festival will be presented in three sessions: the basic session from 1 to 4 p.m., the VIP session from 6 to 7 p.m., and the evening session from 6 to 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, midway during the Albany event, the 2nd annual "Craft NY Brewers Festival" will begin at 5 p.m. and run until 8 p.m. at The Desmond hotel and convention complex, 660 Albany Shaker Road in Colonie, just off Northway Exit 4.

That event, organized by the New York State Brewers Association (NYSBA), is expected to present about 80 brews from more than three dozen New York State breweries. The state’s "Taste NY" program that promotes food and drink from all segments of the state once again will provide food samples from Albany area restaurants at no additional cost.

Tickets are available online at a variety of price points. VIP status allows ticket holders admission at 4 p.m., with general admission ticket holders admitted at 5 p.m. The event will run until 8 p.m. No one under age 21 will be admitted. Proceeds go to support the NYSBA’s efforts to promote craft beer.