Monday, March 30, 2015

Epicurean cartoonery

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


• Forty-three years after it opened, the Friendly's restaurant at 9 Troy Road in East Greenbush has done it again. The restaurant's re-opening after extensive renovations will be celebrated by offering customers a $2 combo that includes a Friendly's Original Burger and a Junior Fribble drink from Monday, April 6, through Sunday, April 12. The restaurant's hours 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Sunday and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Phone: 477-4010.


• The Dinosaur Bar-B-Que chain is the target of a class action lawsuit accusing it of failing to pay its tipped workers fair wages, including overtime. The suit names all six of the restaurant's locations, including Troy. The same law firm that filed the suit, Fitapelli & Schaffer, has filed similar suits against the Chipotle Mexican Grill and TGI Friday chains. Dinosaur founder John Stage today told the lawsuit is "BS." He said he hasn't been served yet, so he doesn't known all the details of the complaint. However, he pointed to a 25-year history of fair treatment of workers, adding, "I'm looking forward to defending this."


Ocean On Lark, a fish fry restaurant, is in development at 216 Lark Street, Albany, where Hot Dog Heaven operated until closing late last year. No details on a timeline or a menu have been announced, and there does not appear to be a website for the venture. Its Facebook page has virtually no information.

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 jalapeño-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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Epicurean cartoonery

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.


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


Legends Field, the restaurant and pub at Capital District OTB's flagship location at 711 Central Avenue in Albany, will add live music and dancing if its application for a cabaret license to do so is approved by the city. The applicant is Frank Rogers, president of All-American Sports Recreation, which runs local leagues for basketball, softball, flag football and a version of floor hockey. If permission is granted he will be able to book events attracting 500 or more people.


Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is temporarily introducing Red Stick Chicken (chicken tenderloins marinated in cayenne pepper and Tabasco pepper mash, battered, breaded and fried, served with new Smok’n Pepper Ranch dipping sauce, Cajun fries and a buttermilk biscuit, $3.99). It will be available (March 30-April 30.

Panera Bread is adding Power Almond Quinoa Oatmeal (organic steel-cut oats, organic quinoa, sliced toasted almonds, ground cinnamon and honey, suggested $4.19) to its permament menu immediately.


• Amy’s Kitchen Inc. is voluntarily recalling nearly 75,000 cases of various food products. The California company, which sells its products at retail outlets across the country, says the move is based on a recall notice from one of its organic spinach suppliers that said it may have shipped spinach with the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. The list of products is available online.

• Rochester-based Wegmans Food Markets doesn't have locations in the Capital Region, but it's popular with locals who happen to be in markets where they can drop into one of its 85 stores. Thus, news of this recall -- more than 12,500 packages of Wegmans Organic Food You Feel Good About Just Picked Frozen Spinach, 12 oz. (UPC 77890-32932) due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

LoPorto's THE name in Cuisine Magic competition

Carmelo LoPorto
LATHAM -- Sometimes the familiar is refreshing. That was obvious in the case of the 22nd annual Cuisine Magic competition at The Century House.

LoPorto’s Ristorante Café and its executive chef, Carmelo LoPorto, emerged glowing from the Sunday fundraiser for the Eddy Visiting Nurse Association. His work was rewarded with the “People’s Choice – Best Overall” award after taking the top honors in the appetizer category and finishing second in entrees.

LoPorto, nephew of restaurant owner Mike LoPorto and executive chef at the Troy venue for 16 years, won the same top award back in 2002.

Chefs from nine restaurants competed in the prestigious event, attended by more than 400 people, this year using a "Magic of Spain" theme for the culinary offerings. The official final results:


LoPorto’s: Squid ink pasta stuffed with lobster and saffron and topped with a leek cream sauce.

Hilton Garden Inn, Albany Airport (Executive Chef James J. Rhoads): White beans with spinach and chicken sausage.

Saratoga Marriott & Excelsior Springs (Executive Chef Thomas Gulbrandsen): Traditional Spanish tapas, shrimp and scallop ceviche, grilled log steam artichoke heart with serrano ham and shaved Manchego, spiced roasted nuts.


Saratoga Marriott: Spanish braised pork shank with dry sherry, tomatoes, Spanish paprika and ancho chiles with saffron rice.

LoPorto’s: Matambre – stuffed flank steak with chorizo sausage, spinach, manchego cheese with sausa Espangnole.

Café Calabria (Chef Michael Futia): Pork tenderloin and saffron mussels with roasted red pepper puree.

Other competitors included Todd Burge of Morrison Senior Living, Nathan Kutzscher of the Albany Marriott, Geri-Ann Mastromarino of the Hilton Garden Inn of Troy, Edward Murray of the Hilton Garden Inn at Albany Medical Center, and Michael Niccoli of The Century House in Latham.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Epicurean cartoonery

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


Koni's Broadway Kafe is downtown Troy's newest eatery.  Chef-owner Koni Valente opened the breakfast-and-lunch operation in the 357 Broadway location that formerly was home to the Broadway Cafe. Her casual  menu spotlights house-made items, such as daily batches of ciabatta bread and potato chips. Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Closed weekends. Catering services and large-order deliveries are available. Phone: 273-2233.

Carson's Woodside Tavern, which succeeded Cliff's on Saratoga Lake, is up and running in refurbished quarters under new ownership. Chef Michael Cunningham has created a menu that offers touches from all over -- Cajun, Italian, Mexican, German and French, among others. You can see it here. Hours: lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to midnight Monday-Saturday, noon to 11 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant is located at 57 Route 9P in Ballston Spa. Phone: 584-9791.

• Seasonal burger-and-ice cream businesses are opening sporadically throughout the Capital Region. Kurver Kreme on Central Avenue near Fuller Road in Colonie and Jack's Drive-In in Main Street in Wynantskill are the two latest ones to beging serving customers. Jumpin' Jack's Drive-In in Scotia is scheduled to open on Thursday.


• A Connecticut company has issued a voluntary recall of several of its products which have the potential to cause Salmonella poisoning. Aurora Products Inc. is recalling certain lots of its "natural walnuts" and "trail mixes containing walnuts." The company said "the potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by an outside company contracted by the FDA revealed the presence of Salmonella in one container of natural walnuts product. Organic walnuts are not affected." Consumers are urged to destroy the product or return it to the point of purchase.

Recall: Aurora walnuts and trail mix

A Connecticut company has issued a voluntary recall of several of its products which have the potential to cause Salmonella poisoning.
Aurora Products Inc. is recalling certain lots of its "natural walnuts" and "trail mixes containing walnuts." The company said "the potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by an outside company contracted by the FDA revealed the presence of Salmonella in one container of natural walnuts product. Organic walnuts are not affected."
Consumers are urged to destroy the product or return it to the point of purchase.

'Session beer' pairing dinner at Cafe NOLA

Screen shot 2015-03-23 at 9.34.20 AMSCHENECTADY -- Do you know the definition of a "session beer"? You'll have an opportunity to try some of them, or to learn about them if they're unfamiliar to you, when Cafe NOLA hosts a beer pairing dinner.

The event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 6. The occasion is the third beer dinner being hosted there this year by local beer writer Chad Polenz. He is the co-author of "The Handbook of Porters and Stouts," a 400-page hardcover compendium on all things dark beer that he will be selling at the event at a discounted price. Polenz worked with Cafe NOLA chef/co-owner Kevin Brown to create the menu.

“Normally, beer dinners tend to be made up of big, beefy brews. But, in honor of the fourth annual Session Beer Day on April 7, I wanted to go in the opposite direction and put together a menu of lighter beers," Polenz said. "No one’s ever held a beer dinner with this type of theme in the Capital District. Also, what’s nice about doing a dinner of session beers is you won’t be overwhelmed by the alcohol when it’s over.”

Noted beverage writer Lew Bryson, founder of The Session Beer Project, defines those beers this way:

"Most people agree that session beer is lower in alcohol, and more characterful than mass-produced light lagers. Here in America, the disagreements all seem to settle on the alcohol. There are hardcore British session beer fans who insist that anything over 4% ABV isn't session beer; the Beer Advocate website says 5.0% is the top limit. ... Since we have to draw the line somewhere, Session Beer Day is going with 4.5% as a top limit."

Tickets are available at the restaurant for $50 each, which includes tax, but not tip, or may be purchased online. Reservation deadline is April 3. Café NOLA is located at 617 Union Street, near Union College. Phone: 357-8628.

The event menu:

• Blackened asparagus with grilled cheesy grits, paired with Jack's Abby Jabby Brau (4.5% abv)
• Caesar salad, paired with Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose (4.2%)
• Chilled spring berry bisque, paired with Blanche de Bruxelles (4.5%)
• Smoked pulled pork slider with cole slaw, paired with Upstate Brewing's X.P.A. (4.6%)
• Chocolate pecan pie, paired with Breckenridge Vanilla Porter (4.7%)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

'Hangover-free wine' -- In the news, but not new

Key players in the story.
The topic of “hangover-free wine” came to the fore this week. As is so typical in this age of instant communication-without-context, it became the “in” thing to talk about in wine circles and lasted for several news cycles.

However, it is not a new topic. Without modern genetic tinkering, hangover-free wines have been around for quite some time.

Go here to read all about it.

Epicurean cartoonery

Girl Scout 'Cookie Cuisine' Tuesday at The Desmond

COLONIE -- If you want to see the way the cookies crumble, or melt, or otherwise blend into some imaginative dishes, the Girl Scout "Cookie Cuisine" extravaganza is the place to be.

The annual event is set for 6 p.m. this Tuesday at The Desmond, 660 Albany Shaker Road, just off Northway Exit 4.

Teams from 15 local restaurants will vie for top honors in the fundraiser supporting the Girl Scouts' camp program. Having served as a judge in several iterations of the event, I can attest to the fact the creativity is at a high level.

Tickets are $45 each for adults, $%40 for children 13 and under. They may be purchased at the door or online.

Open house at Cooking School @ Market Bistro

LATHAM -- The Cooking School @ Market Bistro is planning an open house to mark its first year in operation.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 11, chef instructor John Winnek and the Cooking School staff will be on hand to greet visitors, present demonstrations and offer samples of their work. No registration is required for the free event, and children are welcome since the curriculum includes classes for children in various age groups.

The Market Bistro by Price Chopper is located in the shopping plaza at 873 New Loudon Road (Route 9). Phone: 782-0441, Option 1, Press 2.

For a look at all cooking classes throughout the Capital Region, go here.

April's cooking class schedule is packed

If you're interested in some sort of culinary instruction in April, you're in luck. There are 30 cooking classes on the local calendar, most for adults, some for kids and some for adults and kids together.

You can find the entire lineup, covering six different teaching venues, on the "Cooking Classes" subset of my Capital Region Food & Drink Calendar.

A few cautionary notes:
  • Such classes all require advance registration.
  • Last-minute signups aren't smart, since most classes have very limited sizes.
  • While the great majority of classes are hands-on instructional affairs, occasionally you'll find one that is a watch-then-sample format without  the hands-on aspect.
As always, if your organization is planning on offering a class, please send the information via e-mail well in advance to assure yourself a place on the calendar.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ca'Mea plans Southern Italian wine dinner in Hudson

Screen shot 2015-03-21 at 6.25.23 PMHUDSON -- The restaurant Ca'Mea is planning "A Taste of Southern Italy," a regional Italian wine dinner.

Roy Felcetto, who founded Ca’Mea, and partner Massimiliano Cenci have arranged for wines from Vias Imports' portfolio to be paired with the restaurant's interpretations of seasonal dishes characteristic of Sicily, Campania and Basilicata.

The event is scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26. Reservations, which are required, are priced at $90 per person. They may be made by calling Ca'Mea at 822-0005.

The restaurant is located at 333 Warren Street in this Columbia County community.

Dr. Frank Riesling scores again in big-time test

Screen shot 2015-03-21 at 5.33.10 PMIt's almost not fair. Any time Riesling wines are judged and the Dr. Frank winery has submitted an entry, you know a medal is sure to result.

The latest success story came in the recent Monterey (CA) Wine Competition, where the Dr. Frank 2013 Dry Riesling not only won Gold, but was named "Best Riesling."

In the same competition, which drew 567 entries, Dr. Frank's 2014 Gruner Veltliner earned a Gold, Penguin Bay's 2013 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine a Platinum, and its NV Percussion along with Swedish Hill's quartet of Naturel, Spumante Blush, 2013 Vidal Blanc, and Riesling Cuvee all took Gold.

Riesling, thanks to its unerring quality and a never-ending public relations campaign by industry lobbyists and cheerleaders, is without a doubt New York State’s signature wine.

In January's prestigious San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition that drew more than 6,400 entries, the Dr. Frank 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling tied for “Best White Wine” from among more than 3,000 white wine entries in that category. En route to that finish, that same Riesling won a Double Gold medal (unanimous decision of the tasting panel).

 At Monterey, V. Sattui Winery's Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder 2012 earned "Wine of the Year" honors. "Best of Show Sparkling" went to Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards's Blanc De Blancs Carneros NV, "Best of Show Chardonnay" to Bonterra's Chardonnay Mendocino 2013, and "Best of Show Pinot Noir" to LaZarre Wines' Pinot Noir Central Coast 2012.

The full list of awards by category or by winery is available online.

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


• Crisp, the newest restaurant in Loudonville's food-centric Newton Plaza, has an interesting menu, especially in what is listed along with its lineup of wings, wraps and wedges -- a lengthy range of customizable $10 salads available in a bowl, wrap or on flatbread. Customers get to pick their base layer from among four types of greens, followed by four of 28 toppings, one of seven proteins, one of six cheeses and one of seven dressings. If, as they say, you "do the math," the number of possibilities is astounding. Crisp is located in the space recently vacated by a seafood operation. Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Phone: 782-2747.


• OK, Darden Restaurants got a new management team that took an ax and a paintbrush to its floundering Olive Garden chain. So, how's that working out? Same-store sales at its flagship brand rose 2.2% percent during the accounting period just ended, the first time since 2010 the company had consecutive plusses for two reporting periods. While customer traffic was less, elimination of many of the longstanding cut-rate deals Olive Garden offered didn't hurt the bottom line. In fact, Darden says the customers who did visit have been willing to spend more as meal quality has been improved and have increased spending on drinks and desserts, two prime profit items.


• Starbucks Corp. doesn't stand still. The latest thing the coffee shop empire will be trying is deliver, with New York City's Empire State Building and in its corporate hometown of Seattle, both in the second half of this year. The test was announced this week at the company's 23rd annual shareholder meeting. The pilot will let customers order and pay with Starbucks’ new mobile app, and have their order delivered within defined areas. Before the end of the year, the mobile app service will be rolled out to all company units in the U.S. and Canada.

'A Taste of Troy' to benefit Hope 7 Community Center

TROY -- A fundraiser for the Hope 7 Community Center has drawn 18  restaurants to support the cause.

The community center, which also runs a food bank, will hold its 5th annual "A Taste of Troy" from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at the Franklin Terrace Ballroom, 126 Campbell Avenue. Cooking demonstrations, live music, auctions and specialty vendors will be part of the event, along with a tasting of wines from Victory View Vineyards.

The restaurant lineup: Bootlegger’s on Broadway, B-Rad’s Bistro & Catering, Brown’s Brewing Co., Defazio’s Pizzeria,  Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, The Eatery at Carol’s Place, Franklin Terrace Ballroom, The Greek House, Hilton Garden Inn,  Infinity Café, Jack’s Drive In, Muddaddy Flats Quesadillary,  Red Front Restaurant, The Ruck, Slidin’ Dirty Restaurant & Food Truck, Spill’n the Beans Coffeehouse & Bistro, Ted’s Fish Fry and Villa Valenti.

Tickets, priced at $25 in advance or $30 at the door, are available online, or $30 at the door, also are available at Hope 7, 936 Pawling Avenue; Carol's Place, 536 Pawling, and Bob DeMeo's Wine & Liquor, 501 Campbell Avenue.

Have Capital Region restaurant weeks run their course?

Have restaurant weeks pretty much run their course in the Capital Region?

That question is prompted by the paltry number of restaurants signing up to participate in such local promotional events.

A simple answer would be "yes," but that still begs for a reason. One might be "restaurant week fatigue." There are so many in the Capital Region that they tend to blur into each other. And, not all are actual weeks. Some are five days, some seven, some 10, and so on.  Perhaps a name change is in order to avoid confusion.

And, speaking of names, it should be made clear I'm not talking about one-shot "Taste of ... " events. Rather, the topic is spotlighting week-or-more events, either billed as restaurant weeks or, in some cases, actually using the "Taste of ... " as part of the name.

Saratoga-centric restaurant weeks are most successful in the Capital Region. "Travers Restaurant Week" last summer corraled 39 participants -- mostly from Saratoga County, making it arguably the largest such event in the area, but still not that big. The 6th annual "Saratoga County Restaurant Week," which began a 10-day run on Friday, has 36 participants. A competing such event with different sponsors drew 40 last March.

Beyond those, here are the numbers of a sampling from around the area over the past year:

• "A Taste of Colonie" drew just 18 in October. And, only 13 of the dozens and dozens of restaurants operating in the town are involved in "Colonie Restaurant Week" which begins Monday. The Colonie Center shopping mall alone has more eateries.

• "Downtown Albany Restaurant Week" included 17 restaurants last April. The April version so far has only 15 signed up.

• "Schenectady County Restaurant Week" drew just 24 participants in February.

• The "Troy Restaurant Week" event back in September had 17 restaurants participating.

• "Lake George Restaurant Week" had 16 signed up.

• The "A Taste of Guilderland" week drew a mere 10 participants back in July, fewer than the number of eating spots in Crossgates Mall alone.

By comparison, look at two larger such events that began this week elsewhere in the state -- the 10th annual Hudson Valley Restaurant Week and the biannual Western New York Local Restaurant Week. They had, respectively, 205 and 201 participating venues.

Their success comes from population density, broad geographic reach and restaurateurs interested in making their regions destination places rather than incessantly spotlighting little slices of their area.

Inter-city and inter-county cooperation is a rarity in the Capital Region, no matter whether in business, education, government, or any other undertaking. It will be interesting to see if the restaurant segment takes any action to cooperatively promote the Capital Region as a destination dining area or continues to slog along with a string of parochial events.

Friday, March 20, 2015

HV Beer & Cheese Fest set for Kingston

KINGSTON -- The 4th annual Hudson Valley Beer & Cheese Fest grows near.
The celebration of local brewing and cheesemaking is a joint effort of Keegan Ales and Aroma Thyme Bistro from 1 to 4 p.m. this Sunday.

It's sort of a joint birthday celebration since the restaurant and brewery both are in their 12th year of operation. The event venue will be the brewery, located at 20 St. James Street.

Aroma Thyme chef/owner Marcus Guilano has created a lineup of food samples featuring Hudson Valley farmstead cheeses. Brewer Tommy Keegan has lined up not only his own brews, but some from Sloop, Defiant, Newburgh, Tuthill Town, Chatham, Dutch Ale House, Rock Hill, Shmaltz, Blue Collar, Cask Creations, Habana Happenings, Doc's Hard Cider, 2 Way Brewing, Harvest Spirits, Yard Sale, Adirondack, Bull & Barrel, with several more possibilities.

Tickets are $55 at the door, or $50 in advance by calling (845) 647-3000 or (845) 331-2739.

The Melting Pot celebrating with free food

The Melting Pot chain of fondue restaurants announced today that there may, indeed, be such a thing as a free lunch. Or dinner.

To mark something that may have slipped the collective mind of the consuming public -- the 6th annual "National Cheese Fondue Day" on April 11 -- The Melting Pot is bringing back its free cheese fondue offer for all Club Fondue members, an offer that will run from April 6 through 9.

“National Cheese Fondue Day is a real food holiday that some cheese lovers never knew they always wanted to celebrate,” said chain president Mike Lester, perhaps with tongue somewhat in cheek. "We're doing our part ... to draw attention to the cheesy goodness of the holiday with our free cheese fondue offer. It’s the perfect opportunity for us to show our valued guests just how much we appreciate them as well as introduce new guests to the deliciousness of cheese fondue.”

Here's the deal. Anyone who is not a member of Club Fondue can get in on the offer by joining the chain's e-mail club no later than March 30. All members will receive an e-mail between April 1 and April 3 with instructions for how to redeem free cheese fondue offer.

The chain's cheese fondue course is valued at $8 to 9 per person (prices vary by location) and the communal fondue dining experience allows for up to four individual portions of cheese fondue to be shared in one fondue pot. Each fondue is served with artisan bread and seasonal vegetables for dipping.

The Melting Pot, founded in 1975, now has more than 130 restaurants in North America and more than 20 international locations in development. It has six Upstate New York locations, including one in Guilderland's Crossgates Mall.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

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


• Update: The Twisted Vine Wine & Tap project at Delmar's Four Corners intersection will get under way this week. The Town of Bethlehem Planning Board on Tuesday gave final approval to the project at 384 Kenwood Avenue. A June opening is projected. As reported earlier, the wine bar is owned by Brendan McCann and Dan Casey, owners of the nearby Perfect Blend Cafe, with some financial input from coffee shop manager Chris Torncello. McCann and Casey also own the bakery Make Me a Cake Next Door, located next to the coffee shop on Delaware Avenue.


• A five-year-old restaurant on the main drag of Lake George Village is up for sale for a cool $1.9 million. The 3,500-square-foot Blue Moose Tavern & Restaurant is located on a triangular-shaped, 4.6-acre parcel at Route 9 and Glen Lake Road, just off Northway Exit 20.

• Finius T. Flubberbusters, a roadhouse that operated for 23 years on Route 4 in Hampton, Washington County, until closing in January, now is up for sale. David Birkenhead, 70, owner of the business which had recently been renamed Briggs and Company told the Rutland Herald he decided to close it because " ... 70 is long enough. I built everything myself. It's just, I'm tired. I'm tired. I'm tired of trying to come up with new ideas. Young people might come in here (if they bought the business) and say, 'Let's put pink cows on the roof,' and maybe it'll work. I just don't have that desire to do that anymore." Birkenhead said the building is believed to be one of the oldest roadhouses in the U.S. It was built about 1915.


• Ulster County has followed the lead of Albany County and several other areas by adopting a ban on foam food containers. The county legislature this week passed the bipartisan "Food Service Waste Reduction Act," 16 to 7. It still needs to be signed by County Executive Mike Hein and filed with the Secretary of State's office. Supporters of the bill said foam containers cannot be recycled and, according to the federal government, are the world's fifth-biggest source of hazardous waste. The rollout schedule is six months for chain restaurants, county facilities and county-permitted events and one year for every other food business in the county, including grocery stores, non-chain restaurants, supermarkets, coffee shops and food carts. The county's health commissioner would have power to enforce the measure. A first offense will be a warning, with successive violations incurring fines of $250, $500 and $1,000 a day. Each day of violation will be  considered a new offense.

'Downtown Albany Restaurant Week' schedule set

ALBANY -- The announcement today of the lineup for the 11th annual "Downtown Albany Restaurant Week" has at least two interesting statistical elements:
1. Unlike many other such promotions around the state that vary from five to 14 days or so, this one is an actual week, beginning Saturday, April 11, and running through Friday, April 17. 
2. There are only 15 participating restaurants, a rather paltry number considering the actual number of eateries in the downtown swath.
However, there are several smart ideas intended to draw patrons to participating venues that will be offering three-course special meals for $20.15:
1. Parking is free each night at the Riverfront Garage, Columbia Street between Broadway and Water Street, from 5 p.m. to 6 a.m.; Green-Hudson Garage, Hudson Avenue and Green Street, 5 p.m. to midnight Monday-Friday, and Quackenbush Garage, Orange Street between Broadway and Water Street, 5 p.m. to midnight Monday-Saturday. 
2. A "student night" on Monday, April 13, usually the slowest night of the week for restaurants. On this date, five restaurants will offer diners with valid student IDs a three-course special meal for $15.15. They are the Albany Pump Station, The Hollow Bar + Kitchen, Jack's Oyster House, La Serre and V&R Italian Ristorante.
In addition to those five, other participants in the overall program are: Taste, Public House 42, Parish Public House, Olde English Pub & Pantry, The Merry Monk, Hudson Harbor Steak & Seafood, City Beer Hall, Charter at the Hilton, The Capital American Eatery & Lounge and Cafe Capriccio.