Thursday, April 27, 2017

Epicurean Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 



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FDA may have postponed menu labeling requirements

From Restaurant Business Online
The [federal] Food and Drug Administration is pushing back enforcement of menu labeling requirements for chain restaurants and retailers from the scheduled start day of May 5, according to a group lobbying for a delay.

NACS, an association for convenience stores and gas stations, said the FDA revealed its intent to postpone the rules in a government filing that has yet to be made public on a broad basis. The group did not say when the FDA intends to start enforcement, or why it decided on the delay. NACS' assessment could not be confirmed.

The documents it cited are listed as not yet published on government websites. The trade group was the only party reporting a delay, as of this posting.

The mandate for chain restaurants to reveal nutritional information on their menu boards is part of the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare]. ...  Menu labeling, as spelled out in the ACA, is favored by the National Restaurant Association and other industry groups as a preferable alternative to a hodgepodge of local and state nutrition disclosure requirements.
Go here for details of the FDA requirement.

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Utah continues its complicated relationship with alcohol

One of the now-required Utah signs (photo provided)
From The Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY -- Coming soon to Utah restaurants that serve alcohol: Signs that say they are not bars. And coming soon to Utah bars: Signs that say they are not restaurants.

The state alcohol commission approved the signs Tuesday to comply with a new state law requiring those establishments to clearly tell customers what they are. ...

Utah might be the first state in the country to require such signs. The requirement was included in omnibus liquor legislation, HB442, that state lawmakers approved earlier this year. The sign provision takes effect May 9.

The bill also gives restaurants the option to remove the so-called "Zion Curtain" that shields liquor dispensing from diners, though they would have to put up a 42-inch high partition or create a 10-foot buffer zone around the bar area instead.
Go here for another version of the story.
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Chain Links

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

Arby’s reports 26th consecutive quarter of growth

Why Subway is shrinking

Red-hot Domino’s isn't afraid of delivery competition

Transitioning Panera Bread reports another strong quarter

Burger King parent company plots growth for Popeyes 

Big Mac makeover helps McDonald's overcome restaurant slump

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• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook


At Chipotle Mexican Grill, it's a good news/bad news week

The Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant chain was turned upside down during this strange week of mixed messages.

Bouncing back financially from health-related scares at several clusters of Chipotle units, the chain on Wednesday announced its first quarter sales were its best quarterly result since the fall of 2015 when the first reports of en E. coli outbreak surfaced, a problem that carried over into last year. Its efforts to change some of its food sourcing, upgraded menu items and fresher ingredients plus a vigorous advertising campaign helped bring it back financially.

However, now it has been forced to reveal that its payment system has been hacked.

Jack Hartung, the chain's chief financial officer, told Wall Street analysts during an investor presentation, "We want to make our customers and investors aware we recently detected unauthorized activity on a network that supports payment processing for purchases made in our restaurants."

He said that Chipotle has put in place new security measures it believes stopped the unauthorized activity, which the chain estimates occurred between March 24 and April 18. Chipotle says it is also working with a cyber security firm, law enforcement, and the payment processor to address the matter.

In the Capital Region, Chipotle has locations on Western Avenue in Guilderland; Wolf Road in Colonie; Wade Road at Route 7 in Latham; Balltown Road in Niskayuna; Clifton Park Center, and Route 50 in Saratoga Springs.
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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Update: Ex-Marotta's reopens today as Rare Craft Steak

Today's ribbon cutting at Rare (photo provided)
UPDATE (4/26/17): Rare, a steak and cocktail house that emerged from an ownership change at the former Marotta's Bar-Risto in Schenectady, made its official debut today. Click here for the menus. An express lunch offering carries a pledge of being served in 20 minutes or less or it's free. The dinner menu, which offers a variety of decisions for patrons to make, also includes some popular carryover dishes from the Marotta's days.

(Originally published 4/5/17)

Last December, I wrote that Marotta's Bar-Risto in Schenectady had been sold and would reopen as a steakhouse "sometime this spring." Now we have the date.

Josh Mackenberg, former manager of Marotta's, and business partner Joseph Boudreau have announced the reopening of the 611 Union Street venue on Wednesday, April 26, as Rare Craft Steak & Cocktail House.

Today, they began offering a sneak peek at the new menu (the Marotta's menu will continue to be served until the changeover): lemon chicken (lightly breaded chicken cutlets, pan seared and simmered in a lemon/roasted garlic /white wine sauce with capers and artichokes, served  over Parmesan risotto with chef's vegetable; steak fresca pizza (pesto sauce, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and grilled strip steak, finished with goat cheese, basil, and white balsamic drizzle).

Their Facebook message says, "We know that some of you have ... concerns? ... about the new restaurant and the direction of the menu. So, we thought it would be a good idea to introduce things gently. If you're a Marotta's hall of famer you might recognize a mashup of two of our classics in the lemon chicken."

For those who don't want to wait until April 26, "E-mail us at eat@rarerestaurant for an invite to our VIP soft opening the day before. Must e-mail or call to get on that guest list." The phone number is (518) 377-5100.

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Wing Fest coming up this Saturday in Glens Falls

The 3rd annual Wing Fest in Glens Falls this Saturday again will raise money for The Glens Falls Collaborative as well as pay tribute to Abraham Wing, the founder of Glens Falls and of Queensbury.

Restaurants from the area will set up along Glen and Maple streets to serve chicken wings with varieties of sauces and flavorings in a festival setting. The block of Glen Street between the Centennial Circle roundabout and the Crandall Public Library and the block of Maple Street between Ridge Street and Bay Street will be closed to traffic for the event from noon to 3 p.m.

Sampling tickets are $1 each. Each restaurant sets the number of tickets needed to purchase a sample. About 1,500 people bought tickets last year. This year’s goal is 2,200.

The Sound Factory band will perform at the City Park bandstand. The Lounge Lizards and Phil Camp will perform on Warren Street. A new T-shirt featuring Henrietta, the Wing Fest mascot (see photo), will be on sale for $20, with proceeds going to the Glens Falls Arts Trail. T-shirts can be bought in advance at Samantha’s CafĂ© and Catering on Glen Street. Those who buy T-shirts before Saturday will receive 10 free Wing Fest tickets.
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Update: Hot Harry's to give away 3,640 Cinco de Mayo burritos

Brothers Isa (left) and Bishir Ali in front of their newest restaurant.
UPDATE (4/26/17): All seven Hot Harry’s Fresh Burritos locations in New York and Massachusetts will be giving away limited edition Hot Harry’s / Cinco de Mayo T-shirts to the first 80 customers on Friday, May 5. Certain menu items also will be discounted. And, all customers that day will be eligible to win a free burrito each week for a year. Ten winners will be chosen per store, so the total combined count of free burritos is 3,640.

(Originally published 3/3/17)

Another Hot Harry's burrito restaurant has opened in the Berkshires. Brothers Isa and Bishir Ali just opened a location in the Union Block at 403 Main Street in Dalton, MA, the location of O’Laughlin’s Pharmacy for nearly 40 years. 

Their connection to the brand is solid. They already own and operate the Hot Harry’s at 724 Tyler Street in Pittsfield, MA, that their father, Faisal Ali, and his nephew Samir Abdallah opened in 2004. Abdallah currently is executive vice president of the Hot Harry’s group.

Overall, Hot Harry's now has seven locations. Two are in the Capital Region -- in the Hannaford Shopping Center at 596 Columbia Turnpike in East Greenbush, and at 1625 Union Street in Schenectady. Further brand expansion is being eyed by Richard Tarascio, who became company president in 2015.

“We’re poised for growth,” Tarascio said. “We hold monthly 'Discovery Days' to introduce prospective franchisees to our concept, brand and business model.” The next is scheduled for Tuesday March 21. Reservations for it may be made by calling Tarascio at (413) 747-1535.

The Dalton location is open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Phone: (413) 300-0028.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Another brewery/brewpub on the drawing boards in Troy

Site of proposed brewery/brewpub at Congress St. and Pawling Ave. (Photo by Google Earth)
Troy may be getting yet another craft brewery operation.

A partnership seeking to convert a former church into a brewery and brewpub  has submitted a request to the City Zoning Board for a use variance/special use permit to allow for "a parking deficiency related to the creation a brewery/brewpub with an approximate occupancy load of 200 people."

Then site is 560 Congress Street, near the intersection with Route 66 (Pawling Avenue). The applicant is Louis Emory, a Troy resident, and the project is identified as Collar City Brewing.

The building, which backs up on the Poestenkill Falls on a hill above downtown, had been home to the Mt. Ida Community Baptist Church that recently closed. It is adjacent to the pocket park known as the Col. Albert Pawling Memorial Park where a statue of the city's first mayor was installed last April.

The Zoning Board is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, May 2, in the City Hall chambers in the Hedley Building.

Currently, the city is home to a lineup of craft breweries and/or tap rooms and beer gardens that includes Brown's Brewing Co., Rare Form Brewing Co., the recently-opened Beer Diviner, a recently-reported brewpub project in a former North Central warehouse at 669 River Street, Wolff's Biergarten downtown near the Green Island Bridge, The Hill at Muza European-style beer garden off Congress Street, and a variety of pubs offering a long list of brews including the 32-tap array at Finnbar's Pub.

Go here for a list of the craft breweries operating in the Greater Capital Region.

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A proposal for a true 'Upper Hudson Valley Beverage Trail'

A rough outline of a proposed beverage trail
When do efforts to capitalize on local pride and promotion fall short of what could be achieved by broadening one's scope? We may find out if two state lawmakers from the Greater Capital Region are successful in getting state help to promote craft beverage production in a small slice of the area.

The Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce is working with State Sen. Elizabeth Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) on just such an initiative. They would like to designate a regional craft beverage and winemaking trail for Warren and Washington counties under a state Department of Transportation (DOT) program. 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 is being 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.

All of which looks fine at first glance. But, at second glance the plan could be considered myopic.

The area already is covered by the Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail, a collection of  more than a dozen wineries and tasting rooms plus affiliate businesses in Warren, Washington, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties. That existing cooperative venture could become so much more with the right vision and support.

New York State has long labored under the financially redundant and often conflicting burden of having too many school districts, stand-alone fire and police departments, hamlets-within-villages-within-towns, and on and on. Perpetuating such a failed organizational model by championing such cumbersome constructs in an alcoholic beverage industry that is undergoing a boom in all categories seems quite unwise.

Consider, around the state we already have beverage trails that bump up against each other, sometimes creating some confusion when promoting cooperative events. Do we need more of that? I suggest the lawmakers might expand the scope of their current intent. Rather than simply adding another entity to the mix, they could seek DOT and state marketing assistance to go beyond the small area now being targeted and helping the Upper Hudson Wine Trail become the Upper Hudson Beverage Trail and attracting as many wineries, breweries, distillers and cideries as  possible in the true "Upper Hudson" area.

The idea is not far-fetched. Whereas New York once had just a handful of wine trails, today it has 21 -- 15 that are wineries-only, 6 that include brewers and distillers under the "beverage trail" rubrick.

Most beverage trails have partnerships with a variety of hotels, motels, resorts, restaurants, tour vehicle companies, and craft food artisans that offer enticements to tourists. Imagine the promotional clout available to a well-formed beverage trail that stretches a manageable 60-plus miles from Albany and Rensselaer counties to the south to Lake George to the north.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

25th Cayuga 'Wine & Herb Festival' covers 2 weekend

Except for opening day, all 16 members of the Cayuga Wine Trail will be participating in the next two weekends' 25th annual "Wine & Herb Festival."

Each weekend, the event will open on Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. at four member wineries -- Treleaven, Long Point Winery, Montezuma Winery, and Six Mile Creek Vineyard. Then on both Saturday and Sunday they will be joined by Americana Vineyards, Bellwether Hard Cider & Wine Cellars, Buttonwood Grove Winery, Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery, Goose Watch Winery, Hosmer Winery, Knapp Winery, Lucas Vineyards, Swedish Hill Winery, Thirsty Owl Wine Company, Toro Run Winery, and Varick Winery & Vineyard.

The tour will allow home gardeners to get started on their own plots by purchasing potted herbs and vegetables that will be featured in all 16 food samples, along with the matching recipe collection. Visitors will be offered wine samples that complement that dish, and will be offered three additional wine tastings. Herbs and vegetables will include jalapeno peppers, marjoram, iceberg lettuce, cilantro, parsley, Sweet 100s tomatoes, oregano, celery, dill, sage, Roma tomatoes, lavender, sweet banana peppers, meatball eggplants, basil and chives.

Potential visitors can reserve tickets and their preferred starting point online. Prices vary depending on the package selected. For those unfamiliar with the Cayuga Lake-centric trail, the organization recently release a downloadable app.
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Chain links

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

Can a salad bar and a new restaurant save Ruby Tuesday?

Subway debuts Facebook Messenger ordering

Pizza Hut to debut new pizza builder

KFC enlists Rob Lowe for the next colonel

Red Robin launches digital ordering nationwide

Quaker Steak & Lube seeks franchisees at conference in Phoenix
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Panera hiring 10,000 workers, expanding its delivery service

The Panera Bread bakery-cafe chain today announced it will expand delivery service for 35 to 40% percent of its more than 2,036 restaurants by the end of the year, and add more than 10,000 in-store and delivery driver jobs.

By the end of 2016, the St. Louis-based chain said, it offered delivery in 15% of its units. The service, based on digital and mobile ordering, provides lunch and dinner to locations within an eight-minute drive of a restaurant.

“In many places across the country, all that’s available for delivery is pizza or Chinese food,” said, Ron Shaich, Panera chairman and CEO, in a statement. “We’re closing the gap in delivery alternatives and creating a way for people to have more options for real food delivered to their homes and workplaces.”

The announcement did not specify which markets would be added to the delivery program. That information will be released as the rollout is finalized. There are 13 Panera venues in the Greater Capital Region --  Latham, North Greenbush, Glenville, Niskyuna, Clifton Park, Colonie, Albany, Glenmont, Amsterdam, Malta, Guilderland (Crossgates Mall), Saratoga Springs and Queensbury.

Panera said it had experimented with hiring third-party delivery comanies, but now is hiring its own drivers, "the only way we could ensure that our delivery guests get the same high-quality experience they have come to expect from our bakery-cafes,” said Blaine Hurst, Panera’s president.

Panera several weeks ago agreed to be purchased by JAB Holding Co. for $7.5 billion.
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Sip & Canvas staying open under a new owner

Sip & Canvas, the Glens Falls company that combines art with food and drink, has a new owner.

Robin Brewer, a retired school art teacher, has taken over the business that creater Amanda Westcott originally had announced it would close.

Brewer, who has been teaching at the studio, said she will retain the name and format, under which guests experience group art classes in an informal setting and snacks and wine are incorporated into the session. Westcott had offered daytime classes for all ages and evening classes for people 15 and older.

The studio is located in the Rogers Building at 21 Bay Street. Phone: (518) 791-4888.
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Save the date: August food and wine festival in Vermont

As you map out your summer plans, here's a good possibility that is just a comfortable drive over the state line: Vermont's newest foodie event is the Manchester Food & Wine Classic, scheduled for August 25-27 in Stratton and Manchester.

In addition to 500 different wines, beers and spirits and food from more than 20 local restaurants to sample, 10 different seminars are on the schedule in Stratton.

Additional events within the event include "Sip, Swirl & Dine," with chef Vanessa Davis of The Copper Grouse preparing a special four-course upscale dinner at the Kimpton Taconic Hotel in Manchester; "Wine & Nine," a nine-holf golf outing and luncheon at The Equinox Golf Course in Manchester.

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