Monday, August 31, 2015

New interactive website tours NYS wineries

The new website
New York is a very big state, and, with 400 winery locations dotting a 525-mile swath from the Niagara Escarpment in the west to the eastern tip of  Long Island, keeping track of them can be quite a chore.

However, it has just become a bit easier with the unveiling by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation of a new online tool that can be used to take a virtual tour of any and all regions and individual wineries in the state.

The website is called New York Wine Country. It's a simple name, matched by the simplicity of navigating it. Visitors go to the home page, where they are asked to select a region -- or a sub-region in the cases of the Finger Lakes, Long Island, and New York City. One click and all the wineries in the chosen area are displayed. Another click on any of them takes the visitor via Google Maps that includes the name, address, and phone number, and provides a live link to its website.

The site also includes what the NYWGF calls an "interactive infographic" that includes a handful of recommendations in each region for dining, lodging, and other tourism attractions.

The site was created as "the electronic companion to our fabulous 'New York Wine Country' bookazine -- a coffee table magazine, and for both projects we partnered with Wine Enthusiast magazine," says NYWGF President Jim Trezise, which explains why the portal for the new site is through the magazine's website.

The "New York Wine Country" book is a 140-page collection of photos, articles and advertisements specific to the wine industry. It is a supplement to Wine Enthusiast magazine. It was distributed with the magazine's September edition and through the wineries that advertised in it, thus potentially reaching about 300,000 consumers.

"With a combination of winery advertising to raise private sector funds, and the state matching [those] funds, we were able to co-create a publication which we believe reflects the progress, present, and promise of the New York wine industry, from Long Island to Lake Erie and everywhere in between," Trezise said.

He also said both projects were made possible by the state's Craft Beverage Marketing and Promotion Program, created to expand all aspects of the New York wine industry, "which we greatly appreciate."

Sorry, Charlie, you owe us bigtime

If you’re a resident of the U.S. who bought Starkist Chunk Light Tuna or Solid White tuna either in oil or water between February 19, 2009, and October 31, 2014, you’re entitled to a payout of $25 cash — or $50 in tuna if you prefer.

That bit of information may sound like an internet scam, but it isn't. It's true. The story is here.

Have you checked today's food-and-drink calendar?

There are plenty of food-and-drink events that will be popping up this fall. Keeping track of them and getting linked to the details is the problem.

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 festivals, charitable events, restaurant weeks, specialty food events, grand opening festivities, tasting events, dinner theaters ... and then only finding bits and pieces?

Join the people who have been taking advantage of my Capital Region Food & Drink Events Calendar, arguably the most thorough and live-linked compilation of events involving, well, food and drink. It even has a subsection dealing with cooking classes both for adults and for kids.

If you're not already checking out the calendar 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.

Cheers!

Tug Hill best NYS finisher in cold climate wine judging

ST.  PAUL, MN -- Tug Hill Vineyard's 2014 La Crescent won a Double Gold medal, and The Cape Winery's Marquette a Gold, at the recent 7th annual International Cold Climate Wine Competition (ICCWC) held here. Both wineries are located in New York's Thousand Islands region.

(A Double Gold means a unanimous vote of the tasting panel, while a Gold means a majority vote of the panel.)

The trophy known as the Minnesota Governor’s Cup, signifying the best Minnesota grape and "Best in Show," was won by Three Oak Wines of Albert Lea, MN, for its single varietal 2014 Frontenac Gris. That wine also won the top prize in the white wine category en route to the final overall judging found.

Lincoln Peak Vineyard of New Haven, VT, took "Best of Show" in the red wine category with its 2013 Marquette. The "Best of Show" award for rosé wines, awarded this year for the first time, was won by Shelburne Vineyard of Shelburne, VT, for its 2014 Whimsey Meadow Rosé.

The specialty/fortified wine category "Best of Show" winner was Millner Heritage of Kimball, MN, for its 2012 “Müllner Nice” Frontenac Gris Dessert Wine.

The competition included 308 wines from 60 commercial wineries in 10 states and Canada. Awards were based on blind tastings by 21 judges who include enologists, wine writers, restaurateurs, retailers, and wine educators. Three-judge panels determined the initial medals, with the top-scoring "Best of Show" wines evaluated by five- or six-judge panels, and all 21 judges determined the Minnesota Governor’s Cup award.

The ICCWC is a partnership between the Minnesota Grape Growers Association and the University of Minnesota, which developed several of the cold-hardy grapes used to make the wines in the competition.  This competition is the only one exclusively dedicated to wines made from cold-hardy grape varieties that can withstand the winters known to the Upper Midwest, North East, and parts of Canada.


Go here for full details of the judging.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Update 2: Strong opening for Funny Bone at Crossgates

Setting the stage at  Funny Bone

UPDATE (8/30/15): I attended the first Saturday late-night show. The verdict? Thumbs up! The entry procedure was smooth, the menu nicely varied (cleverly conceived cocktails, real fries!, burgers, steak, pulled pork platter, salads, etc.), the service attentive without being pushy, and headliner comic Ryan Hamilton brilliant and clean, a big hit with a very varied audience, and proof there still are professionals who know how to be clever without being raunchy. Put another way, wit still trumps crudeness no matter your age, gender, race, ethnicity, or other background. A hint: Be careful about tipping. The venue adds an 18% gratuity to your bill whether you like it or not. While that may guarantee its servers some money, it ends up screwing them out of the 20% or more people like me tend to tip.

UPDATE (8/16/15): Funny Bone Comedy Club & Restaurant will open at Crossgates Mall on Thursday, August 27. Ryan Hamilton, praised by critics as being a funny and successful "clean comedian," will be the venue headliner through that Sunday.

(Originally published 3/24/15)

GUILDERLAND -- A Funny Bone Comedy Club & Restaurant is the first confirmed tenant of the  expansion now being built at Crossgates Mall.

It is expected to open a 300-seat operation on the mall's second level in August, taking up 10,000 square feet of the 40,000 being added to the sprawling complex, near the exterior entrance to the Dave & Buster's game-and-dining emporium.

Funny Bone currently has 10 venues -- one at the DestinyUSA mega-mall in Syracuse as well as locations in Hartford, CT.; Dayton, Toledo and Columbus, OH; Des Moines, IA; Richmond and Virginia Beach, VA; Newport, KY, and Omaha, NE.

In addition to restaurant competition, the new Funny Bone will be up against plenty of comedy competition. Latitude 360, a 50,000-square-foot entertainment destination now being built at Crossgates and offering upscale bowling facilities, a game arcade and other amenities, earlier announced plans to book comedy acts for its performance space. (Update: The Latitude 360 project is dead.) Already in the Capital Region are Comedy Works locations in Albany and Saratoga Springs with a third venue scheduled to open in Schenectady in the spring, near where construction is about to begin on the $300 million Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor.

Funny Bone, which has venues in a variety of locations, is a full-service restaurant offering a menu of typical finger foods, salads, pizzas and sandwiches in addition to such entrees as seven-spice pork tenderloin, a 12-ounce ribeye steak and chicken Madeira, although the menu may vary from one location to another.

Albany's newest restaurant to open Monday

A cleverly designed bar.
ALBANY -- The city's newest restaurant, Ama Cocina, has been in development under the direction of general manager Jessica Evans for more than a year. On Monday, the effort will be unveiled.

The restaurant, owned by the ever-expanding BMT Restaurant Group, is scheduled to open at 11 a.m. Monday at at 4-6 Sheridan Avenue, a venue that formerly was home to a variety of businesses, including the restaurants Big House and a short-lived incarnation of Carmine's. The decor is in the currently-in-vogue "industrial chic" style, complete with a garage door that when opened allows the interior and the sidewalk to sort of become one.

The head chef is James Frese, formerly of DZ Restaurants' Pasta Pane in Clifton Park. He is opening with an initial lunch menu, then adding a dinner menu. Hours: 11 a.m. To 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday, plus Sundays when local events warrant. Phone: 776-4450.

This is BMT's eighth in Albany. The others are the flagship Spinners at 11 Picotte Drive and six on Madison Avenue -- Madison Pour House, Junior's, The Point, Beer Belly, Pub 869, and Cafe Madison.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Today's ride on the foodie-go-round


SWITCHING

• The Subway sandwich chain, which today celebrated it 50th birthday, has announced plans to join the move away from using chicken raised with human antibiotics, but it will take until some time next year to do so. It also is working to find antibiotic-free options for all the meats on its menu, although it declined to provide a timeline for implementation, citing the 44,000-unit chain’s size and the limited supply of such foods. Among large restaurant chains, McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread already had announced initiatives to eliminate suppliers that routinely use antibiotics to produce meat.

INTRODUCING

Menu additions at chains operating in the greater Capital Region.

Applebee's (permanent additions; prices vary by location) -- All-Day Brunch Burger (bacon and onion seared into a burger patty, topped with a fried egg, hash browns and American cheese); Blazin’ Texan All-In Burger (jalapeño peppers and onions seared into a burger patty, topped with shredded beef brisket, white Cheddar cheese and Applebee’s Signature Grill sauce).

Burger 21 -- Loaded Spud Burger (certified Angus beef patty on a layer of scallion cream cheese, topped with Cheddar cheese, bacon and potato crisp, served on a toasted brioche bun with a side of cheese-and-ale sauce, $7.49-$8.49); White Chocolate Raspberry Shake (vanilla ice cream, Ghirardelli white chocolate sauce and Monin Raspberry Fruit Purée, topped with whipped cream and a raspberry drizzle, $3.99-$4.99 for a small, $4.99-$5.99 for a regular).

 • Dairy Queen (September-October) -- Pumpkin Pie Blizzard (vanilla soft serve blended with pumpkin pie pieces, topped with whipped topping and nutmeg, suggested $2.69 for a mini, $3.39 for a small, $3.89 for a medium and $4.39 for a large).

 • Dunkin' Donuts (starting August 31) -- Tailgater Breakfast Sandwich (egg, reduced-fat Cheddar cheese and a split smoked sausage topped with peppers, onions and ancho chipotle sauce on a toasted French roll, suggested $3.99).

 • Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (through November 1) -- ÜberBurger (grilled half-pound Black Angus burger topped with candied bacon, grilled bratwurst and Samuel Adams glazed onions, drizzled with Merkts beer cheese and served on a toasted pretzel bun with shredded romaine lettuce and beer mustard, $14.49).

Smashburger (permanent) -- Kids’ Grilled Chicken Strips. (grilled chicken breast cut into 1-inch pieces, served with choice of side and drink, $5.49); Musselman’s Unsweetened Squeezables (single-serve applesauce with a re-closable pouch and no added sugar or sodium, served as a side item for any kids’ meal.)

Food-and-drink calendar filling up

There are plenty of food-and-drink events that will be popping up this fall. Keeping track of them and getting linked to the details is the problem.

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 festivals, charitable events, restaurant weeks, specialty food events, grand opening festivities, tasting events, dinner theaters ... and then only finding bits and pieces?

Join the people who have been taking advantage of my Capital Region Food & Drink Events Calendar, arguably the most thorough and live-linked compilation of events involving, well, food and drink. It even has a subsection dealing with cooking classes both for adults and for kids.

If you're not already checking out the calendar 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.

Cheers!

Is another Mexican Radio in the cards?

The Mexican Radio Restaurant Group is advertising for managers for its Schenectady and Hudson venues. That, in itself, is interesting. But, I found a sentence tucked into the ad much more interesting.

It says, "We are a company poised for strategic growth and we are looking for committed individuals to grow with us!"

Could that mean another Mexican Radio is in the works? I've never heard a company use that sort of phraseology except when some sort of expansion plans are on its drawing board.

Mexican Radio, founded and owned by the married team of Lori Selden and Mark Young, began in 1998 in Manhattan's Nolita neighborhood. That was followed by establishment of another in 2003 on Hudson's Warren Street restaurant-and-antiques row, and last June by a third location, on State Street in Schenectady.

Stay tuned to Mexican Radio, which gets its name from the 1980s Stan Ridgway song that goes:

"I wish I was in Tiajuana 
eating barbequed iguana. 
I'd take requests on the telephone. 
I'm on a wavelength far from home. ... 
I'm on a Mexican radio." 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Grocery out, Little Pecks in for Troy

The shared courtyard behind the
Broadway and 2nd St. properties
TROY -- After Saturday night hours, The Grocery will be no more.

The downtown venture by entrepreneurs Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine was opened just short of two years ago, part of their ongoing renovation of a group of buildings on Broadway and 2nd Street that are connected by a shared rear courtyard.

The Grocery, which was a high-end retail market, will be replaced by Little Pecks, a cafe featuring "a vegetable forward menu, strong coffee program, and soft-serve ice cream," according to Christopher.

He told the Times Union that despite its original aim, The Grocery "evolved into an ineffective sandwich shop. It's not working out. Time to start over."

The couple still own and operate the Charles F. Lucas Confectionery & Wine Bar on 2nd Street, and the Peck's Arcade restaurant and upstairs Tavern on Madison, all just steps from Monument Square.

The name of the new Little Pecks venture is a clever take on both the idea of a small-bites cafe and the Peck's Arcade name. It will have access to the retractable-roofed courtyard the wine bar and restaurant now share.

As I reported last week, the always-busy Christopher and LaVine have two other projects in the works: a boutique wine shop at 22 2nd Street and the potential for another restaurant on the Franklin Street alley side of the same property in a former carriagehouse.

The Point plans 'Cheers for Charities' fundraiser

ALBANY -- Restaurant-based charity events are commonplace, but three at once is something unusual.

The Point Restaurant & Lounge, will host its first "Cheers for Charity" event from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday, September 24.

The event will benefit Twill, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Each will have a guest bartender involved in a friendly competition. The charity with the most votes will receive 10% of all same-day proceeds of the restaurant, while the two runners-up will receive a donation from the $10 per person admission.

That $10 per person, which will be added to the bill at each table, covers 3 drink specials, one from each charity, and a vote. Music will be provided by DJ Trumastr.

Reservations are suggested, and available by calling 729-5383. The Point is located at 1100 Madison Avenue. Parking is available behind the restaurant.

Today's ride on the Foodie-go-Round


SELLING

• The two-year-old Crown Grill in Saratoga Springs is up for sale as owners Colin and Christel McLean make more time to devote to expanding their juice business. The McLeans, who also own the adjacent Circus Circus which they opened in 2004, have put the 130-seat Crown Grill up for sale at an asking price of $595,000. As an inducement, they have promised to donate $10,000 from the proceeds of the sale to a charity of the purchaser's choosing. According to a report in the Times Union, the McLeans' Saratoga Juice Bar recently acquired a contract with an unidentified grocery chain to distribute their juices. That is in addition to a lengthy list of retail customers already lined up since they began wholesaling their juices earlier this year. The Crown Grill is located at 390 Broadway. Phone: 583-1105.

ENROLLING

The Troy Downtown Business Improvement District is busy at the moment putting the finishing touches on Friday's "Troy Night Out" promotional event, but it also is working on something else -- lining up participants for the annual Troy Restaurant Week, this year scheduled for September 14-20. Participating restaurants will offer special menus at up to four price points -- $5, $10, $20 and $30. For details on how to be involved, contact the BID office at 251 River Street, call 279-7997, or inquire via e-mail.

EXPANDING

• White Management, the Albany restaurant company that has made more news in the past decade by closing restaurants than anything else, is taking a different direction. Vice President Brian White tells the Albany Business Review the company is aggressively pursuing opportunities to open additional Bountiful Bread cafe locations. He is quoted as seeing he sees two or three more such shops in the Capital Region in the next two to three years, although "I have not found the perfect location yet." White's current Bountiful Bread is located in Stuyvesant Plaza, Guilderland. White Management manages 35 full-service restaurants and fast-food locations, including Creo, also in Stuyvesant Plaza, the Butcher Block in Plattsburgh, and the Log Jam in Lake George, along with a variety of Coldstone Creamery, KFC and Dunkin' Donuts locations. Its most recent closing was when it shut down its Cafe Mangia in Slingerlands in January. At one time it also had a Butcher Block -- late in its existence renovated and briefly operated as Central Steak -- in Colonie, and a Mangia in Clifton Park. It closed all of those between 2008 and 2012.

RECALLING

• General Mills has issued a voluntary recall of its Cascadian Farm Cut Green Beans packaged in March of last year. It says the move is a precaution because one 10-ounce package of the finished product distributed nationwide tested positive for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause food poisoning. The bags contain either of two "better if used by" dates -- 10APR2016 and 11APR2016. Consumers are urged to dispose of the product, and/or call 800-624-4123 to request a free replacement.

Epicurean cartoonery


Have you checked the latest food-and-drink calendar?

There are plenty of food-and-drink events that will be popping up this fall. Keeping track of them and getting linked to the details is the problem.

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 festivals, charitable events, restaurant weeks, specialty food events, grand opening festivities, tasting events, dinner theaters ... and then only finding bits and pieces?

Join the people who have been taking advantage of my Capital Region Food & Drink Events Calendar, arguably the most thorough and live-linked compilation of events involving, well, food and drink. It even has a subsection dealing with cooking classes both for adults and for kids.

If you're not already checking out the calendar 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.

Cheers!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

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


SCRAMBLING

• Things are not going well for the 138-unit Joe's Crab Shack chain. Second-quarter same-store sales fell 4%. So, in an effort to stem its slipping sales, parent company Ignite Restaurant Group says it is testing a number of traffic-building initiatives at several locations, including a walk-up takeout window, a new lunch model, and simplifying its fried seafood platter categories. Meanwhile, sales at Ignite's 23-unit Brick House chain increased 2.8% in the same period. Ignite recently completed selling off the Romano's Macaroni Grill chain. Locally, there is a Joe's Crab Shack at 579 Troy Schenectady Road, at the entrance to the Latham Farms shopping complex. And, there is a Romano's at Wolf and Metro Park roads in Colonie.

CLOSING

• And, another one bites the dust. Owners Mike and Lou Mastrantuono announced on the Milestone Restaurant & Bar's Facebook page that it is closing after service Thursday. The restaurant, which has been in business less than four years, is just the latest in a string of eateries that have closed at the same 9 Frontage Road location in Glenmont.  The location once was home to Dale Miller's Stone Ends restaurant. Curiously, the building could have had the same fate as the Lansingburgh building that for years was home to the Olde Daley Inn. After a series of successor restaurants failed to catch hold there, it became a veterinary clinic. The same plan was in the works for the Glenmont building, but the town board rejected it.

INTRODUCING

Menu additions at chains operating in the greater Capital Region.



Romano's Macaroni Grill (part of the new weekend brunch menu) -- Brisket Skillet (3 eggs, fonduta, pulled brisket, caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms, crispy Parmesan potatoes and ciabatta crostino, $11.50); Milanese Steak and Eggs, pictured (breaded sirloin, pan-seared Parmesan eggs, Calabrian pesto, crispy Parmesan potatoes and ciabatta crostino, $14); Farmhouse Skillet (3 eggs, fonduta, thick bacon, Italian sausage, peppers, onions, arrabbiatta sauce, crispy Parmesan potatoes and ciabatta crostino, $12). Locally, Romano's is located at Wolf and Metro Park roads in Colonie.

• Sbarro (through mid-October) -- BBQ Chicken Pizza (grilled chicken, corn, red onion, Cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce on a barbecue-spice  rubbed crust, $4.29). Locally,  Sbarro once had numerous locations in the greater Capital Region. Today, its website lists only one -- in Guilderland's Crossgates Mall. It does have 23 other venues in New York State. The chain filed for bankruptcy last year several weeks after closing 40% of its U.S. locations.

DZ Farm hosting 2nd meet the chefs event

A scene at DZ Farm
GALWAY -- The DZ Restaurants group will hold its 2nd annual "Meet the Chefs at DZ Farm" at 3 p.m. Sunday, September 27.

Visitors to the farm, which supplies many items for the company's four restaurants -- Chianti Il Ristorante, Boca Bistro, Forno Bistro and Pasta Pane, will be greeted with a champagne toast before sampling wines, beers and spirits at the tasting stations. Food will be available at a chef's serving table, and eaten at a rustic farm table or propped on a vintage whiskey barrel high-top, and a cash bar also will be available.

Guests also are encouraged to take advantage of a classic lawn games, walking trails, and a fire pit. There also will be live music and entertainment..

Tickets are $80, tax and tip not included, but valet parking is. Tickets are available by calling 583-1142.

The DZ Farm is located at 2023 Hermance Road.

Hospital seeks to take over lawyer's rare wine collection

From the Associated Press
HARRISBURG, PA -- The fate of 1,404 bottles of rare wine seized from a private collector under Pennsylvania's strict liquor laws hangs on a judge's ruling next week on a loophole that may allow hospital "use" of forfeited liquor.

The wine was confiscated in 2014 under a state law that limits nearly all alcoholic beverage sales to its chain of state liquor stores, none of which sells rare vintages. It was among a cache of 2,447 bottles with an estimated value of at least $125,000 that State Police seized from Arthur Goldman, a lawyer in Malvern, PA.

Chester County Hospital in the Philadelphia suburb of West Chester filed a court petition on Friday seeking custody of the wine, which it hopes to resell for charity under an obscure provision of state law that allows forfeited liquor "to be delivered to a hospital for its use."

Goldman, who admitted selling the wine to private enthusiasts, received a form reached a settlement ... allowing him to reclaim 1,043 bottles. The remaining 1,404 bottles are being sought by the hospital.
Go here for the full story.

Epicurean cartoonery


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

City Beer Hall chef grilling at The Cheese Traveler

Dimitrios Menagias
ALBANY -- Dimitrios Menagias, executive chef of the City Beer Hall, will be the guest grillmaster for this Friday night's cookout at The Cheese Traveler.

He'll be preparing a gastropub menu, with items priced from $4 to $16, using locally sourced meats and specialty pantry items featured at The Cheese Traveler. Craft beer, cider, wine, and specialty sodas also will be available. Appetizers include monger’s choice cheese plate and/or charcuterie plate, buffalo mozzarella caprese salad with six-year-aged balsamic and house-grown heirloom tomatoes and basil.

Seating will be both outdoors and indoors from 5-8 pm. Outdoor seating in the garden is limited and is on a first-come availability. Takeout also will be available by calling 443-0440, with customers asked to allow 20 minutes before pickup.

"We are very excited about our relationship with City Beer Hall and Chef Dimitrios," said proprietor Eric Paul. "We supply them cheese for their cheese board and have partnered with chef on several beer and cheese guided tastings.  We expect something delicious from a leg of lamb and possibly rabbit confit.”

The Cheese Traveler is located at 540 Delaware Avenue. The City Beer Hall is located at 42 Howard Street, Albany.

Today's ride on the foodie-go-round (Vermont edition)


OPENING

• A familiar Southern Vermont inn and restaurant is back. The historic Four Columns opened in 1965 as what it claims was "the first true farm-to-table restaurant in the United States, preceding the legendary Alice Waters by four years. The pond was stocked with trout, the garden with vegetables and herbs, chickens and pigs were raised onsite and game birds were sourced from local hunters." Four Columns eventually changed hands a number of times and closed in 2013. Connecticut hotelier Charles Mallory has become the owner, and has overseen a year-long renovation project of what now is called Four Columns, Artisan Restaurant, Tavern and Garden. You can see the menu online. The inn is located at 21 West Street in Newfane, about 40 miles northeast of Bennington. Phone: 802-365-7713.

EXPANDING

• La Villa Bistro has been in business in Shelburne, VT, just south of Burlington, since 1995, but owners Adam and Jill Spell have been working on a new plan they hope will help carry them another two decades: a gelato business. They're readying a next-door space that used to be home to their store Enoteca Wine & Provisions to become the home of Gusto Gelato. They'll be using a batch freezer imported from Italy to create a revolving line of up to 40 flavors of gelato. Go here for more details as well as a look at the burgeoning gelato-manufacturing business in Vermont.

FEEDING

• Students in the Southern Vermont Supervisory Union won't have to worry about having lunch money in the coming school year. Breakfast money, either. The SVSU is using the federal Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act to fund free meals for every student, no matter the student's family income. Under the act's community eligibility provision, a school or entire district must have 40% or more of its students eligible for free meals. In the SVSU the rate is 42.3%, so it decided to give the other 57.7% free food as well.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Have you checked the food-and-drink calendar?

There are plenty of food-and-drink events that will be popping up this fall. Keeping track of them and getting linked to the details is the problem.

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 festivals, charitable events, restaurant weeks, specialty food events, grand opening festivities, tasting events, dinner theaters ... and then only finding bits and pieces?

Join the people who have been taking advantage of my Capital Region Food & Drink Events Calendar, arguably the most thorough and live-linked compilation of events involving, well, food and drink. It even has a subsection dealing with cooking classes both for adults and for kids.

If you're not already checking out the calendar 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.

Cheers!

Epicurean cartoonery


Distilling Spirits 101



A portion of the large commercial stills used at The Glenlivet. 

 ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
• So many new distillery projects have been in the news recently, I suspect a lot of people wonder what it takes -- besides start-up funding -- to make distilled spirits. Here's a photo report I put together a few years ago, explaining the process using images of a very rudimentary still.
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When it comes to producing new-make spirits, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re high- or low-tech. The initial result is the same. The differences between a “moonshine” operation and a commercial facility are a matter of scale, then the process of aging and, in some cases, combining aged spirits to create a special blended whisky. However, the chemical process remains the same.

Ian Logan, brand manager for The Glenlivet, put on a demonstration of scaled-down distilling for a visiting American journalist making a tour of Scottish distilleries. The first step was showing off The Glenlivet’s towering stills in its Ballindalloch, Banffshire, Scotland, facility. The second was setting up a specially-licensed “personal” still for comparison purposes.

Logan emphasized that essentially the same process has been used by distillers in many parts of the world for centuries -- creating a fermented grain mash (using rye or barley or corn, etc., or a mixture of grains, plus yeast and water) then cooking the mash in a still to create vapors that rise into metal coils that are submerged in cold water where they condense into a purified liquid distillate.

Logan stokes the wood fire beneath the mash-filled still to achieve the proper temperature.





Nothing tricky about checking the temperature, just gingerly touching the still pipe to be sure it is staying even.

And then, that magic moment.

Large amounts or small, this is the final pre-aging product — a crystal clear distillate with a rich nose of spicy grain and a hint of sweetness on the palate. The taste of the raw whiskey -- or whisky, as it is spelled here --  begins with a light strawberry note, then moves to banana. At this point it is about 70% ABV (alcohol by volume), or 140 proof, obviously far from the finished product consumers will find on shelves after it is diluted with water to reach the desired ABV level.

The  best "cuts" of the new spirit -- spilling off the bitter beginnings or weaker ends of a run -- usually are distilled one or two more times to further remove any impurities and smooth out the taste. Time in the aging barrel imparts the color and much of the flavor to the whiskey.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Copake OKs sports bar, another wine store



Vintage post card of building to become sports bar, wine store.
COPAKE -- Drinking establishments are few and far between in sparsely-populated eastern Columbia County. So, locals who like a conveniently located spot will be happy to known that the Town of Copake Planning Board has approved a plan to renovate a former restaurant building to become home to a new sports bar.

However, that approval also gives the go-ahead for a new wine and liquor store, something the town -- population 3,615 at the last census -- does not lack.

Gurprit "Gary" Singh, who has been a local businessman for about 20 years, is behind the project. Singh owns the Sunoco gas station and convenience store at 1678 County Route 7A. More than a decade ago, he purchased the building next to his that he now wants to repurpose. Over the years it had been home to Lewis's Holsapple House, King's Steak House, and JJ's Pizza.

Given the town's location -- it is on Copake Lake and the Taconic State Park runs along its eastern edge, both of which help draw tourists and sightseers -- business traffic often outstrips that of the local residents.

The town gets its name from the lake, which itself comes from the word pronounced variously as cook-pake, or ack-kook-peek, indigenous people's reference to a "snake pond." Not exactly tourist friendly, but it probably isn't mentioned to visitors.

Singh, who is targeting a December opening, also plans to serve food at the tavern, and operate a liquor store in the same building as well. That will be the second retail shop to open in the town this year. And, there always is the Hillrock Estate Distillery in nearby Ancram that sells its own wares.

Yanai Frank, who owns a home in West Copake, opened the Copake Wine Works in June in a former pharmacy building at 177 Route 7A in the hamlet.

Representatives of the Town Board and the Copake Hamlet Revitalization Task Force will join in a ribbon-cutting ceremony there at 1 p.m. Saturday, September 12. The shop's hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 329-5549.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

One NY spot makes Bon Appétit's 'best new restaurants' list

Al's Place tops the list
Planning a trip this winter? You may be going to one of the cities that is home to Bon Appétit magazine's latest annual list of "America's Best New Restaurants."

Brooklyn's Semilla ranked No. 4
Ranked No. 1 is the modestly named Al's Place in San Francisco, an establishment with a very limited seafood-centric menu. Ranked No. 4 is New York State's top finisher, Semilla, a Brooklyn spot that describes itself as "vegetable forward" and does all its serving in communal style around an 18-seat central bar.

What I noticed most in reading the descriptions is that while the honored restaurants may not necessarily appeal to me as something I'd call "best," many of them certainly are imaginative.

Unfortunately, those of us in the Capital Region apparently have effectively been told once again that  we are living in a culinary backwater, according to all the foodie magazines and websites that rank such things. All of Upstate New York, actually, once again couldn't even get a nominee in the magazine's top 50.

Here's the magazine's full top 10.
1. Al's Place, San Francisco
2. Gjusta, Venice, CA
3. Petit Trois, Los Angeles
4. Semilla, Brooklyn
5. Parachute, Chicago
6. Dai Due, Austin, TX
7. Kindred, Davidson, NC
8. Rintaro, San Francisco
9. Manolin, Seattle
10. Milktooth, Indianapolis
The list appears in Bon Appétit's September "Restaurant Issue." You can see the list of nominees here and the final selections here, along with a slideshow and recipes from those establishments.

CIA unveils its autumn-winter dinner schedule

Ristorante Caterina de'Medici
The Culinary Institute of America has just released the schedule for its autumn and early-winter special meals three of its eight on-campus restaurants. Here's the lineup. You can get details and make reservations on the college's website.

• September 2, Wednesday (lunch) -- "Mushrooms, Cheese & Barolo," Ristorante Caterina de'Medici. 
• September 11, Friday -- "Game Birds & Burgundies," The Bocuse Restaurant. 
• September 16, Wednesday -- "Long Island Chowderfest with Taste NY," The American Bounty Restaurant. 
• September 23, Wednesday -- "Pasta, Pasta, Pasta ... and Wine!", The American Bounty Restaurant. 
• October 2, Friday -- "Parisian Art Festival Dinner," The Bocuse Restaurant. 
• October 29, Thursday -- "A New York Beer Dinner with Taste NY," The American Bounty Restaurant. 
• November 12, Thursday (lunch and dinner) -- "Cider Week & Apple Fest," The American Bounty Restaurant. 
• December 9, Wednesday -- "Black and White Truffle Dinner,"  Ristorante Caterina de'Medici. 
• December 10, Thursday -- "A French Champagne Christmas," The Bocuse Restaurant.
The Culinary Institute is located at 1946 Campus Drive, Hyde Park, Dutchess County. Phone: 845-452-9600.

Recall: Deep Coriander Powder a salmonella risk

Chetak New York LLC of Edison, NJ, is recalling its “Deep Coriander Powder” because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The recalled Lot# LE15152 jars were distributed nationwide in retail stores from July 30 to August 13. The product comes in a 14.1-ounce clear plastic jar marked with the UPC number 011433134347 on the back of the package. The lot number can be located on the bottom of the jar.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem. The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing conducted by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Consumers who have purchased the recalled jars are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious, sometimes fatal, infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with it often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Noted NYC bar developer found dead in Hudson

Petraskie
Petraskie
HUDSON --  Sasha Petraskie, 42, whose New York City bar Milk & Honey was among the major catalysts in creating the modern cocktail culture, was found dead Friday in this Columbia County city.

Petraskie recently moved here temporarily while he handled an industry consulting job. He also reportedly was in the process of developing a new upscale bar in Brooklyn's Red Hook section.

Go here for a larger story.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Update 2: Fire-ravaged Lake George A&W to return

UPDATE (8/21/15):  Dave Madden, owner of the A&W closed by a mid-July fire, told the Glens Falls Post-Star he does indeed plan to repair the restaurant and reopen in the spring of 2016.

UPDATE (7/22/15): The Madden family, owners of the A&W restaurant gutted by a Sunday fire they say started in a kitchen printer, have started a $10,000 effort on the Go Fund Me  fundraising site, with an eye on reopening for the 2016 season.

(Published 7/19/15)

LAKE GEORGE -- What was by early indications an electrical fire extensively damaged the A&W Restaurant at 2208 Route 9 today. Police said an emergency call was received at about 4:30 this morning.

Local fire officials were quoted by some media outlets as saying that although there was extensive damage to the structure, it did not appear that the building was destroyed. However, a message posted on the restaurant's Facebook page said, "We have heavy hearts today as a fire has destroyed our A&W."

There are approximately 1,300 of the iconic root beer-centric A&W restaurants across the U.S. and Canada. The Lake George venue is one of 10 located in Upstate New York communities. The others are in Ogdensburg, Vestal, Plattsburgh, Greenport, Cortland, Wilmington, Fishkill, and two in Oswego.

What grew to become the A&W chain began franchising just two years after its original location was opened in 1919. By the mid-1970s, at its largest size, A&W had more locations than McDonald's. In 1923, the company opened a drive-in restaurant in Sacramento, California, the first such business in the state. A&W is known most widely for its iconic root beer, but serves a fast-food menu that also includes such perhaps unexpected items as burritos and spaghetti at some sites. A list of innovations and facts about the chain is available online.


Christopher-LaVine eyeing project-within-a-project in Troy

Wine shop site.

TROY -- Anyone who keeps track of business that comes before the City Planning Commission might have seen an interesting note from its most recent meeting: approval for a restaurant at 22 2nd Street.

That caught my attention because that's the address for a wine shop Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine, the city's most entrepreneurial couple, have under development.

I asked Christopher to shed some light on how the wine shop project is going and whether he and his wife also have another restaurant in mind. Here's his explanation:

"The wine store will be located on the 2nd Street side of the property. The business will be open as soon as the SLA [State Liquor Authority] grants the wine store license, as we are preparing for a full board review. The store is going to be a hand-sell, boutique wine shop highlighting natural and rare wines in the $15 to $20 range.

"Alternately, there is a cool three-story carriage house on the Franklin Street alley side of the property. Its last use was as Casabonne & Maloney Builders in the late-1950s, and [it] has been vacant ever since. We went through the Zoning Board to get a sense of what would be an allowed use, and were granted approval for a restaurant, although we have no firm concept at this time.

"We acquired this long-vacant parcel a few months ago, and want to be sure that all options are investigated in order to maximize the potential of the property. It's a cool place we want to share with the public in some capacity, and we plan to figure it all out in the next couple of months."

Given Christopher's and LaVine's track record of renovating dilapidated historic buildings and turning them into viable businesses, I'm sure it will be a clever decision. Their current portfolio is the Lucas Confectionery Wine Bar, The Grocery, and Peck's Arcade and The Tavern.

Epicurean cartoonery


More news behind the ban on powdered alcohol

Before last year, only Delaware and Alaska had bans on the sale of powdered alcohol products -- often called Palcohol. Now, as part of a nationwide rush of legislation, 25 states have passed such laws.

New York State became the latest, as I reported last week, when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a handful of bills concerning the adult beverage industry.

Cuomo said, "This dangerous product is a public health disaster waiting to happen." And, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), has called for a federal ban on powdered alcohol, something he refers to as "Kool-Aid for underage drinking."

Food Safety News has an update on the topic and the reasons behind the rush to judgment.

Some food headlines from around the globe

• Putin cracks down on banned Western food imports

40-year-old meat seized as China breaks smuggling gangs

• Canada rejects US origin labels

• Heinz Ketchup isn't ketchup, Israel rules

• CDC: 476 people in 29 states have cyclospopra infection, potentially from cilantro

• A bag of 'fat, chemicals and hepatitis' -- Why Britain has stopped eating sausages

City Line planning Brazilian Carnival birthday party

Actual Brazilian stilt walkers
ALBANY -- The City Line Bar and Grill is about to be one year old. To celebrate, it's offering something beyond the usual discount drinks  and folksinger party so many others use.

"We wanted to do something special," says a company announcement, "so we figured we'd obviously have a Brazilian Carnival-themed celebration."

Obviously. That will include stilt walkers, samba dancers, drummers, and music provided by DJ Nate Da Great.

The party is scheduled to begin at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 26, and run into the wee hours. Admission is limited to persons 21 or older, and reservations can be made by calling 504-1200.

The City Line, which opened last August, is located at 1200 Western Avenue, about where Albany and Guilderland meet.

[Living under a rock and unaware of what Carnival is in Brazil? Go here for info.]