Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Delmonico workers suing over wage claims

• From the Times Union
Workers at Delmonico's Italian Steakhouse, which has locations in Colonie and Clifton Park, claim [in a lawsuit] management circumvented minimum wage laws by forcing bartenders and servers who work for tips to do cleaning, food prep and other jobs that pay higher wages.

The suit, originally filed in September in U.S. District Court in Rochester but transferred on February 9 to the Northern District of New York, which has a courthouse in Albany, comes amid an attempt by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The issue is expected to be fiercely debated during the upcoming state Legislature session and follows several recent increases to the minimum wage.
Go here for the full story.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saratoga Beer Week to begin with 'Bites & Brews'

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The 5th annual Saratoga Beer Week will officially begin with a "Bites & Brews" event Tuesday night, although a variety of individual beer tastings, specials, activities, and tap takeovers will take place at numerous establishments throughout the week. (Go here to get day-by-day information)

The host venue is the Olde Saratoga Brewing Company, 131 Excelsior Avenue. Tickets for the 5 to 8 p.m. tasting are available online at $30 a head, limited to those 21 and older. The price includes food and beverage tastings and a souvenir tasting glass.

Event organizers are promising samples from 20 New York State breweries, cideries, and distilleries, along with food bites from 10 local establishments -- Gaffney’s, Skidmore Dining, The Barrel House, Olde Bryan Inn, Max, Boca Bistro, Harvey’s, Mingle, The Parting Glass, and BWP.

During the rest of the week, a variety of events are scheduled. The major activities at the Saratoga Springs City Center, 522 Broadway, come on Friday, when the 2nd annual Cider Night is held, and at two sessions on Saturday when the 5th annual Saratoga Beer Summit takes place.

Vermont adds 2 craft breweries in 1 week

Master brewers Dean Rouleau (left) and Mark Babson
In the space of just a week, our neighbors in Vermont got two more craft breweries to choose from.

On February 3, former Magic Hat brewer Mark Babson opened his own River Roost Brewery in White River Junction, located across the parking lot from Big Fatty's BBQ and the restaurant Elixir.

On Wednesday, the Saint J Brewery went into soft opening mode in the Green Mountain Mall in St. Johnsbury. Owner Scott Samuelson is hosting an official grand opening there today.

River Roost is selling growlers and has three beers on tap -- a golden oat ale called Miller's Daughter, a "small stout" called Jack Sprat, and a hoppy wheat ale called My Darlin', brewed with citrusy Vic Secret and Simcoe hops. The trio is rather light, rated at 5.8, 4.7 and 5.4% ABV, respectively.

Babson, who is working on a pale ale and a Mosaic session pale ale, reported that customers bought more than 200 growlers in his first week of business. The Mosaic is aging in California white wine barrels to become his first in a series of oak-aged beers.

The Saint J Brewery is the successor to Grains & Grinds. That was Samuelson's sandwich shop and nanobrewery that was flooded out of business in 2014 by a broken water main. He used his insurance settlement to create the new seven-barrel brewery, and hired master brewer Dean Rouleau to create a portfolio. Rouleau's first lineup consists of three Belgian-inspired beers on draft -- an IPA brewed with Citra and Simcoe hops, a strong dark ale with a dry cocoa finish, and a blonde beer modeled after regional brews of Belgium.

As noted in the Vermont publication Seven Days, Rouleau, a native of New Hampshire, "has been making beer professionally since 1992 and owns San Diego brewpub Prodigy Brewing. The busy brewer also manufactures and installs custom equipment for small breweries and brewpubs nationwide. His resume includes six years at San Diego Brewing and stints at California's Stone Brewing, Pitfield London Brewery in the UK, and Colorado's Phantom Canyon Brewing. His beers have taken high honors in domestic and international beer competitions." He is commuting between California and Vermont.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Food and drink headlines from around the globe

• All A&P stores now closed

Science predicts more frequent extreme events will shock the global food system

FDA ‘pauses’ non-toxigenic E. coli tests for cheese, including raw milk cheese

Fresh Express recalls bagged, chopped romaine

Dinty Moore Beef Stew recall for flashlight parts

Haiti faces worst food insecurity crisis since 2001

Check out Capital Region's top 'Cooking Classes' calendar

New listings have just been added to the Capital Region's largest "Cooking Classes" online schedule.

The venues include Albany, Troy, Latham, Voorheesville, Guilderland, Sararoga Springs, Clifton Park, Schenectady, and Malden Bridge.

And, the classes range from kitchen basics to baking, ethnic cuisines, seasonal specialties, couples classes, kids' classes, and on and on.

If you are a chef or cooking instructor offering classes, feel free to e-mail your information here well in advance of registration deadlines. We'll include them at no charge.

Bill allowing restaurants flexible calorie posting advances

From Nation's Restaurant News 
WASHINGTON, DC -- The U.S. House of Representatives today approved legislation that would give restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores and others more flexibility in the way they label calories on the food items they serve.

The bill, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, would enable restaurants to post calorie counts online or on smartphone apps in cases where customers typically don’t step foot inside a door.

The rules also include some lawsuit protections and give companies more time to comply with the legislation. It gives some flexibility for posting the calories of customized options.
Go here for the full story.

Epicurean cartoonery

Troy Kitchen nearly ready for Feb. 26 debut

Corey Nelson in communal dining area.
TROY -- The much-talked-about Troy Kitchen project is nearly ready for its official debut.

Cory Nelson's indoor food court project, in the onetime Pioneer Food Market building at 77 Congress Street, is scheduled to open on Friday, February 26.

The Brooklyn transplant has been cleverly letting details about tenants dribble out to build momentum, but he certainly has made no secret about what the place will look like. In fact, Nelson has been welcoming volunteers to pop in to lend a hand with hammering, painting, and other chores, or just to meet him and talk about his ideas.

Nelson has been characterizing Troy Kitchen as a sort of "luxury" incubator for entrepreneurial efforts. It will include four food vendors — selling seafood, vegan cuisine, ramen, and tacos — as well as a wine and beer bar, a bakery, and a coffee shop, along with pop-up space for non-culinary sellers. They will be clustered around a communal eating area. There also will be space for live entertainment.

Here's a look at the layout:

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Wanna buy a cooking school?

Artist's sketch of the NECI campus in  Montpelier, VT
The New England Culinary Institute (NECI) in Montpelier, VT, is for sale. The asking price? Although school officials won't say for sure, they will say they think it is reasonable -- and negotiable.

The school is in a state of flux after last week's announcement that interim president and CEO Richard Scaldini has "completed his service." Officials will not make public comments on reports that the school lost other top board and executive personnel and faces ongoing enrollment and accreditation issues.

NECI was founded in June of 1980 by Fran Voigt and John Dranow. The first NECI class had just seven students. Its alumni list now numbers more than 5,000. In addition to the campus in the state capital, a second campus was operated in Essex, VT, for 20 years until August 2009.

Update: Winners revealed in 18th Saratoga Chowderfest

Scenes from the 2015 Chowderfest.
UPDATE (2/11/16): An estimated  45,000 people attended the 18th annual Chowderfest, sampling 80 different chowders. The prize winners: People's Choice, Gaffney's Restaurant, Southwest shrimp and grilled corn chowder with crab popper wonton; Perople's Choice Under 1,0000 Bowls, Doc Brown's Lakeside Tavern, shimp corn chowder; Most Chowder Served, Druthers, Southwestchowder; Best On Broadway, Thirsty Owl; Best Off Broadway, West Side Stadium, seafood chowder with clams, crab, corn, potato, topped with fried cornbread stick; Best Non-Downtown, Dock Brown's shrimp corn chowder; Best Newcomer, Carson's Woodside Tavern, cheesy chicken quesadilla soup; Best Dessert Chowder, TC Paris, mini-tiramisu cupcake.

(Originally published 1/21/16)

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The city's 18th annual Chowderfest will take place at 50 venues this year, and not all of them are usually places that serve food.

For example, the Universal Preservation Hall performance space will be serving Mazzone Catering’s shrimp and corn chowder, and the Serendipity Arts Studio will be serving a gluten-free apple, bacon, and cauliflower chowder as a fundraiser for the Saratoga Springs Public Library.

The Saturday, February 6, event will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. as part of the city's Winterfest event that runs from February 5 through 14. Visitors will pay $1 for each three-ounce sample, and can pick up ballots to cast their votes for honors in various categories. They also will be able to vote online. An awards ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center, 297 Broadway. Some of the participants also will be offering drinks specials and other food specials to complement the chowders.

Two other food-and-beverage events also are part of Winter Fest -- the 12th annual Winterfest Wine & Beer Tasting on Friday, February 5, and the 19th annual Bartenders' Ball on February 6. Details on the full Winterfest schedule are available online.

There also is a "Dog Chow Down," with contestants creating chowders for dogs that will be judged by Sasha, Mayor Joanne Yepsen's dog.

Curiously, the local brew pub Druthers is currently absent from the list of participants. Last year it won the People’s Choice, Most Chowder Served, and Best On Broadway awards. (A list of winners from the past few years is available online.)

Unlike other Chowderfests, such as the popular warm weather Troy Chowderfest, that are held at a single venue, this is a decentralized event with attendees visiting the participating locations. To help manage the traffic, Upstate Transit Shuttles will run from the Wilton Mall at Saratoga at the park-and-ride near Dick’s Sporting Goods to the post office downtown, and from the Saratoga Casino & Raceway at the Crescent Avenue entrance at the CDTA/MegaBus parking area to Congress Park.

The confirmed list of participants so far:

62 Beekman
Bailey’s Cafe
The Barrelhouse
Ben & Jerry’s
Boca Bistro
Bookmakers at Holiday Inn
Bread Basket Bakery
The Brook Tavern
Chez Pierre
Chianti Il Ristorante
Circus Cafe
Crown Grill
Diamond Club Grill
Dock Brown’s Lakeside Tavern
Fifty South/Lily and the Rose (serving from City Center)
Forno Bistro
Gaffney’s Restaurant
Halfmoon Cellars Winery
Harvey’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
Hattie’s Restaurant
Ice House Bar & Grill
The Inn at Saratoga
Izumi Asian Bistro & Lounge
Jacob & Anthony’s American Grille
Legends Cafe
The Local Pub & Teahouse
Max London’s Restaurant & Bar
One Caroline Bistro
Panza’s Restaurant
Park Side Eatery
The Parting Glass
Peabody’s Sport’s Bar & Grill
Phila Fusion Noodle Bar
Prime at Saratoga National Golf Club
Saratoga 5 Points Market & Deli
Saratoga City Tavern
Serendipity Arts Studio
Seven Horse Pub
Sperry’s Restaurant
Stadium Cafe
Sushi Thai Garden Restaurant
Sweet Mimi’s Cafe
Thirsty Owl Bistro
Universal Preservation Hall
West Side Sports Bar & Grill