Friday, September 20, 2019

Albany's Post Wine Bar changes chef, menu, and more

Ryan Charbonneau
ALBANY -- Well, that didn't take long. Post Wine Bar + Kitchen, which just opened in May, already has a new chef, a new cocktail manager, and a new menu.

Co-owner August Rosa told the Times Union that startup chef Abigail Ruddy has become front-of-the-house manager, succeeded in the kitchen by Ryan Charbonneau, formerly sous chef at the nearby Dove + Deer.

For its part, D+D opened last October and three months later replaced its startup chef Josh Davis with his sous chef, Aaron Meda. Charbonneau then replaced Meda as sous chef.

The new cocktail manager is Josh James, who ran the bar at The Shop in Troy until he left in a mass staff walkout last week.

Post Wine Bar is located at 200 Lark Street. Phone: 518-621-7889.

Stumped for a cheeseburger topping? Try some of these

As I noted in a posting earlier this week, Wednesday was National Cheeseburger Day. In that same post, I invited readers to let me know what sort of toppings they liked best.

I received quite a few combinations, even though I had to disqualify a few because they forgot one critical ingredient: cheese.

Here are the most intriguing survivors (to me, anyway). Not all suggested any particular type of bun.

• Avocado, bacon, Swiss cheese, butterhead lettuce, potato bun
• Heirloom tomato, American cheese, remoulade sauce, red onion, romaine
• Bacon, blue cheese, red onion, iceberg lettuce, poppy seed bun
• Cucumber relish, tomato, sharp cheddar, toasted bun
• Mozzarella, tomato sauce, dried basil, toasted Englisgh muffin
• Baked Virginia ham, Swiss cheese, shredded red cabbage
• Sauteed peppers, onions, mozzarella cheese
• American cheese, mustard, ketchup, pickles
• Gruyere, tomato, romaine, fried egg, brioche bun
• Candied jalapeños and garlic, tomato, muenster, arugula, toasted sourdough
• Blue cheese, hot sauce, diced celery, kaiser roll
• Chili, onion rings, cheddar
• Crumbled feta, tzatziki sauce, crushed pistachios, poppy seed roll
• Pickle relish, Swiss cheese, iceberg lettuce
• Horseradish mayo, arugula, gouda cheese, kaiser roll
• Sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, sour cream
• Barbecue sauce, red onions, mild cheddar
• Bacon, iceberg lettuce, Pepper Jack cheese, heirloom tomato, horseradish mayo

Opening & Closing & Developing & Etc.

• A roundup of the latest news briefs about people, places, and products on the food-and-beverage scenes in the Greater Capital Region, the Adirondacks, the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, and Western New England.

Fidens Brewing Company will make its debut in Colonie from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, September 28. Although it will have a small tasting room, the focus will be on filling growlers for the two to three rotating beers, mostly IPAs, it will have on tap each week. The owners are Mike Carter, a financial adviser; Steve Parker, a gym teacher; and Tim Pierce, an accountant. Parker is the head brewer. The venue is in a small industrial area at 10 Walker Way, accessible from Central Avenue. Phone: 518-608-0014.


R&R Kitchen + Bar, which operated at 43 Phila Street in Saratoga Springs for the past two years, has closed. While its Facebook page doesn't mention the move, its website has been scrubbed and replaced with this terse message: "Sorry, We Are Closed. Thank you to our customers who have chosen to dine with R&R Kitchen and Bar & Upstairs at 43 Phila. We appreciate you!" The business was a joint effort by Ron Farber and Ralph Balsamo. Balsamo left after several months, Jodi Leuchten became a partner, and Farber and Leuchten purchased another Saratoga restaurant -- Fish at 30 Lake -- last fall. Farber apparently left the business recently, and the kitchen had undergone several changes of staff.


Stewart's Shops, in the midst of a $50 million program of replacing aging locations with new larger-sized spots and/or adding new ones at other locations, is developing a Latham venue east of the Latham Circle on Troy Schenectady Road opposite the former Kmart complex that now is home to Vent Fitness. The Malta-based, privately-held chain had an average shop size of about 2,500 square feet several years ago. Today, the average new store is closer to 3,700 square feet, depending on the location.


• Maglianero Café, the coffee shop in the Karma Bird House at 47 Maple Street in Burlington, VT, will become the second cafe location of Kestrel Coffee Roasters. Kestrel has been providing the food at the coffee shop since July. Kestrel's first sitdown cafe was founded in 2018 by Charlotte and Johnny Steverson in South Burlington's Technology Park. That will continue to be where they roast their coffee and prep food to be sold at the Maple Street location. Maglianero Café will be closed Saturday through Monday, September 28-30, for training and minor renovations. It will reopen under the Kestrel name on Tuesday, October 1.

Great Barrington sets inception date for plastic bottle ban

GREAT BARRINGTON, MA -- A town-wide ban on the sale of plastic water bottles of one liter or less is scheduled to go into effect on Friday, November 1.

"We expect that all merchants in town who have not already done so will be in full compliance by November 1 as our town seeks to reduce the generation of plastic waste,” said Mark Pruhenski, town manager.

“We’ve created and will distribute informational signs for merchants to place in their stores’ water sale sections, if they wish. We hope this will help inform customers wondering about the absence of single-use plastic water bottles on store shelves.”

Routine inspections by Board of Health agents will include a review of merchants’ compliance, and complaint-driven inspections will be conducted as needed. The board ]will oversee any necessary enforcement.

Penalties for noncompliance:
  • First offense: $50 per day
  • Second offense: $100 per day
  • Third offense: $300 per day

Ocasio-Cortez tries to block another business in her district

U.S. Reps. Trone and Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, known for helping drive away potential jobs from her NYC congressional district, is at it again.

And, if family ties mean anything, she may be picking a fight with a fellow first-term Democrat member of the House of Representatives.

Here's the situation.

The New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) has received an application from entrepreneur Michelle Trone and her company, MCT New York Fine Wines & Spirits LLC, seeking to open a 30,000 square-foot Total Wine & More store at 30-02 Whitestone Expressway in Queens, the former site of a Toys 'R' Us that has been vacant for almost two years. The project would bring about 100 or more new jobs to the area.

Trone is the daughter of U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-Maryland), co-owner,of the Total Wine & More chain. Total Wine, which Trone co-founded with his brother, is America’s largest privately owned retailer of beer, wine, and liquor, with 193 stores in 23 states.

Total Wine received SLA approval in 2017 to open a store in Westbury, Long Island, although it rejected applications for stores in Westchester County and in Stony Brook, Long Island.

Ocasio-Cortez, who led opposition to a proposed Amazon mega-center for offices and a distribution center in her district despite it bringing 25,000 jobs to the area, succeeded in  driving away the discount giant when it dropped the plan back in February.

Her opposition to Total Wine was noted in her letter this week to SLA Chairman Vincent Bradley. She said she is "concerned about the potential impacts that MCT Fine Wine & Spirits would have on the local small business community.” She said her district is home to many of the more than 350 retail liquor stores that operate in Queens and Total Wine’s rock-bottom prices would undercut smaller neighborhood liquor merchants.

Michelle Trone said, "This will give the people of Queens something they don’t currently have from the assortment, education, selection, and the fact that I will be partnering with the community through charitable organizations. I think overall, it will be a benefit to the Queens community."

“We expect this application will be scheduled for a regular board meeting sometime in late November, early December,” a SLA spokesman said.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Opening & Closing & Developing & Etc.

• A roundup of the latest news briefs about people, places, and products on the food-and-beverage scenes in the Greater Capital Region, the Adirondacks, the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, and Western New England.


Cappiello Foods, which closed in February after a 98-year run in Schenectady, has reopened its retail and wholesale operations. The grocer, which specializes in Italian food items, milk, and cheese products, is located at 510 Broadway. A Facebook announcement said, "Our business hours are now Wednesday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. While this is a change from our previous business days/hours, we hope that everyone will be accommodating to the new schedule. Also, product availability will be limited for the time being."

• The Firebird Cafe has reopened in Essex Junction, VT. For a decade, it had been located at 163 Pearl Street near the Champlain Valley Exposition before Jake Tran purchased it and moved the business to  downtown. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week with a men u former California resident Tran  calls "California/West Coast fusion.” The new location, 1 Main Street, more than doubles the seating of the original venue, and Tran is planning to add an outdoor patio next spring. Beginning in December, Firebird will add an evening small-plates menu Thursday through Saturday. Phone: 802-316-4265.


A Starbucks coffee shop is among several new business under construction at the intersection of Susie Wilson Road and Vermont Route 15 in Essex, VT. It is on the grounds of Lowe's Plaza at 54 Sunderland Way. That street also is the main entrance to Lowe's. The Starbucks will cover 2,200 square feet and is expected to open in the spring of 2020. Another building of 4,500 square feet will have room for three other retail tenants. The site once was home to a garden store and greenhouse that operated about 30 years ago.


Clark's Quality Foods IGA, a family-owned grocery store that has operated in Londonderry, VT, for decades, is being sold to Associated Grocers of New England, according to an announcement by the New Hampshire member-owned cooperative. Siblings Marshall, Miner, and Brenda Clark are co-owners of Clark's. "Our goal is not to change the relationships or loyalty consumers have to this store, but rather welcome all customers to become a part of our family," Mike Violette, president and CEO of Associated Grocers, said in the announcement. "This store and the family who has run it for so many years truly capture the essence of the independent retailer AG New England strives to help succeed." All current Clark's employees will be retained, according to the announcement. The store's name will be changed to Londonderry Village Market. Associated currently operates a wholesale grocery distribution center in Pembroke, NH, that serves more than 650 stores in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

James Beard Awards makes NYS a standalone category

The chances someone from the Capital Region might win a James Beard Award have just improved.

The annual awards, regarded as the Oscars of the cuisine university, are doled out in a variety of categories. One of those is best regional chef, with subcategories for the Midwest, Northeast, Northwest, Great Lakes, West, Southeast, South, Mid-Atlantic, Southwest, and New York City.

However, that list has been shuffled, with the New York City category being combined with the rest of New York State, which had been part of the Northeast region but now is a standalone.

For those keeping score elsewhere for some reason, California now is a standalone subcategory rather than part of the West; Texas is a standalone rather than the Southwest; the West and Northwest categories are being partially combined into a new Northwest & Pacific category (Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington), while the remaining Northwest category states will join Colorado  in a new Mountain category, consisting of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming.

Got it?

The James Beard Foundation says the changes will go into effect before the October 1 open recommendation period for the 2020 Awards. The regional reorganizations come on the heels of the Foundation announcing major changes to its awards process to “increase gender, race, and ethnic representation in the governance and outcomes of the Awards, as well as to increase transparency of the judging process, and to make entry to the Awards more accessible than ever before.”

Monday, September 16, 2019

Opening & Closing & Developing & Etc.

• A roundup of the latest news briefs about people, places, and products on the food-and-beverage scenes in the Greater Capital Region, the Adirondacks, the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, and Western New England.


Award-winning actor Kelsey Grammer has opened a Catskills tavern and craft brewery called Faith American Brewing Company. It is located on a farm at 334 Ruff Road in Margaretville, Delaware County, about 50 miles west of Catskill. The actor himself was behind the bar for a recent soft opening and poured the first pints served in the new tasting room. As Grammer, star of such TV series as "Cheers" and "Frasier," wrote on the tavern website: "Having visited the Catskills as a boy and spent some of my most precious days here, I always suspected I would have a future with these mountains. Twenty-six years ago, the land was bought that is the home to Faith American. Here in Delaware County, times have been challenging and the once-prosperous region has suffered considerably; it was a dream of returning this land and even this region to prosperity, a dream that commerce could restore this magnificent corner of the world to a thriving and vital place in America's economy that gave birth to the idea of a brewery. ..." Faith is named for Grammer's seven-year-old daughter. A grand opening for the tasting room will be held around Columbus Day weekend. It will be closed for the winter, with regular hours expected to start next year.

The Saratoga Springs-based Stewart's Shops chain, in the midst of a huge program of updating and replacing various shops across the region, debuted its newest one with a local flavor added to the standard corporate design. The new shop at 10 Sweetmilk Creek Road in Brunswick replaces a smaller, 23-year-old shop, and is topped with a weathervane taken from a nearby farm. Inside, a sign pays homage to the historical house which once stood on the site, and chronicles the history of the town.


• Anyone harboring hopes for a new restaurant to succeeded the former Ruby Tuesday in Mohawk Commons in Niskayuna probably should forget about it. Chase Bank is in talks with the shopping complex owners and Town Planning Board to open a branch office in that spot. Such a plan carries with it the need for , so the Town Zoning Board also will have to get involved. The Ruby Tuesday restaurant closed in 2016, and the venue has been vacant since then. The nearest link in that chain is located in Guilderland's Crossgates Mall. Its Latham venue closed early this month in the latest wave of shutdowns by the company.

Chain Links: Checking with the multi-venue folks

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

Chick-fil-A now serving “No Antibiotics Ever” chicken at all U.S restaurants

Taco Bell rolls out first not-so-new "new" vegetarian menu

McDonald’s to give out free swag with Uber Eats delivery Thursday

Domino's punches back against third-party delivery

Chipotle to pay $6.5M to settle class-action suit over non-GMO claims

IHOP launches menu inspired by the Addams Family

Share your recipes for National Cheeseburger Day

Wednesday is a holiday celebrating one of the best inventions in the history of the world.

National Cheeseburger Day!

To mark the occasion, I'm rounding up suggestions for variations on the basic burger patty/cheese/bun combination. Feel free to send me yours, and I'll publish them right here on the Notes On Napkins blog.

By the way, if you want to go the chain-restaurant route to celebrate the holiday, here are a few promotional offers available to you:

A day early, on Tuesday you can get 50% off the regular price of a cheeseburger.

Get a $1 Junior Bacon Cheeseburger with any mobile order.

A $1 cheeseburger with the purchase of a regularly-priced burger.

Burger King
Download the Burger King app and get a 59-cent cheeseburger.

Red Robin 
A signature Gourmet Cheeseburger and Bottomless Steak Fries for $5, with the purchase of any regular-sized beverage.

A Classic Bacon Cheeseburger or Classic Cheeseburger or Classic Burger, each with unlimited fries, for $6.99.

Burger 21
Its "limited edition" B21 Super Cheesy will return just for the holiday.

Buy one, get one free on the classic Smashburger.

Epicurean Humor Collection

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Amtrak seeks to revive decent railroad dining experience

When I was a kid, some of the better food offered to travelers was available at such places as top-level hotels and railroad dining cars.

While some hotels occasionally rise to that level these days, food on railroad lines usually falls into one of two categories: (1.) shrink-wrapped sandwiches and similar drek, and (2.) no food service at all.

As someone who spent a significant portion of his youth and young-adult years in such metro areas as New York City, Baltimore, and the like, I can vouch for the hotel aspect of that situation. And, as someone who spent many a long hour on railroads the likes of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the New York Central and so on, I can vouch for the pleasures of crisp tablecloths and cloth napkins, white-jacketed waiters, and high-quality food prepared to order accompanied by the background tune of steel wheels clicking on steel rails as you watched the scenery flash by, and assure you such things actually existed in more than romantic novels.

Take heart, nostalgia fans. Amtrak appears to be trying to make railroad dining a positive experience once again.

• Click here to read about Amtrak vacations' dining and menus

Dan Freedman, a veteran journalist for the Hearst Corporation's Washington, DC, news bureau, has an interesting report on the topic. As he notes:
"Executives of the federally-subsidized rail line are here to tell you those days are over, and meals on Amtrak are not dumbed down. 'That was the perception but it is simply not the reality,' said Peter Wilander, the Amtrak official in charge of “product development and customer experience'.
" 'There is cost savings over time, but it is absolutely not in the quality of food,' Wilander said. Amtrak’s new food-service configuration enables the line to save on labor and inventory control, but food expenditures are actually going up, he added.

"To emphasize the point, Amtrak hosted reporters and photographers at Union Station [in Washington] ... on a tasting tour of new hot-food options that included braised short ribs and polenta, Asian noodle bowl, and Creole shrimp. Breakfast will be buffet style, with muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, cereal, oatmeal and breakfast sandwiches.

"This remake of the food on Amtrak long-distance trains gets rolled out on Oct. 1. Flexible dining service, as they call it, will be available on one-night trains east of Chicago. Among them: The Silver Meteor between New York City and Miami; the Cardinal between New York City and Chicago; the Crescent between New York City and New Orleans; the City of New Orleans between Chicago and New Orleans; and the Lake Shore Limited that travels from Albany to Chicago, Boston and New York. ... "
Go here for Freedman's full story.

Apple & Wine Festival set for this weekend in Altamont

ALTAMONT -- The 27th annual Capital Region Apple & Wine Festival, set for Saturday and Sunday at the Altamont Fairgrounds, has a wide range of attractions again this year.

The rain-or-shine event is set for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. General admission is $9, although children under 15 will be admitted free. There is no charge for parking.

Among the attractions, beyond wine, hard cider, and spirits  tastings and sales from a variety of New York State producers:
• car show
• food court
• Juried art and craft show
• Pride of NY specialty food vendors
• cooking demonstrations by Pampered Chef.
• children's activities -- haunted house, face painting, pumpkin painting, clowns, bounces,  slides, kids-on-the-go fitness center, pony rides
• live and DJ music

Epicurean Humor Collection

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions.

6 locals among poll's top-rated Korean restaurants

Six Capital Region establishments landed among the 26 top-rated Korean restaurants in Upstate New York for 2019, according to a recent poll.

The list was compiled by from ratings filed on the Yelp rating website. The top restaurant is Chin Hills, located in the Buffalo suburb of Kenmore.

The local restaurants that made the list:

3. Sunhee's Farm & Kitchen, 95 Ferry Street, Troy
4. Modu Sushi, 1747 Route 9, Clifton Park
5. K-Plate Korean BBQ, 75 4h Street, Troy
11. Seoul Korean, 952 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham
12. Pinto Thai Kitchen, 1540 Central Avenue, Colonie
26. Namu, 1770 Central Avenue, Albany