Saturday, December 31, 2016

New area dining spots to look forward to -- so far

It sometimes can be a chore keeping up with the frequent openings and closings of restaurants and pubs in the Greater Capital Region and nearby western New England, especially with the proliferation of shopping strips that need some sort of food venues to spur walk-in traffic, the addition of a Schenectady casino that we know will require dining variety, etc. This list of what's in the works may be helpful as we head into the new year.


• Veteran local barman Kevin Tighe is developing Tighe's Bistro Americaine at 340  Hamilton Street. Tighe recently told me he still is working his way through both renovations and the permitting process, and hopes to open soon. The French-concept spot is located in the building previously occupied by Mezzo Marketplace and, before that, Unlimited Feast. (An aside: In yet another example of how often local restaurateurs are supportive of each other despite being competitors, Tighe posted this on Facebook just before Christmas: "Not quite ready for staffing yet at Tighe's Bistro Americain yet but New World Bistro Bar is taking job applications for line cooks. Spread the word." Classy.)

Gigi's Italian Restaurante, 1034-38 Madison Avenue, is expected to open some time this month, odd spelling and all, according to the people behind the project who also own the Madison Theatre and the Tierra Farms Roasters cafe. (Come on, folks, it has to be "restaurant" or "ristorante" unless you're creating your own language.)

Viva Cinco de Mayo, a family-owned Mexican restaurant headed up by the culinary team of Vicente and Isidra Merino that had been under development at 809 Madison Avenue since last summer, finally opened the day after Christmas in the former home of the short-lived Bread in Honey bakery.

Albany Dog House 2, an offshoot of the nearly-year-old Albany Dog House at 848 Madison Avenue, is being developed in the former Dolan's On the Avenue at 75 Central Avenue. Dog House owner Ted LeCette purchased the Dolan's property from Peter Hitchcock. The menu offers a lot of hot dogs, of course, plus burgers and "and cheese" sandwiches.

3Fish Coffee will open at 466 Madison Avenue near Washington Park early this year. The owner is Emma Fullem whose father, Robert, ran the Downtube Bicycle Shop for more than 40 years at that address until it was burned out in 2012. Renovations were made to accommodate the cafe concept that will offer coffee, baked goods and light lunch items. The name of the new business? A  mashup of inspirations that include the fact the Fullem family includes three daughters, the bicycle shop history, and feminist leader Gloria Steinem's famous comment that “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

Emmanuel Thai Restaurant has been under development at 325 Maiden Lane since last summer, and still has not announced an opening date. One assumes it soon will. Despite the name of the establishment, its menu also will include Viet, Chinese and Japanese dishes.

The Good Market, a food court concept in development on the ground floor of the iconic "Nipper building" at the foot of Northern Boulevard on Broadway in Albany's warehouse district, is set to open early this spring. The first two vendors have been announced, both of them outposts of existing businesses -- Stacks Espresso Bar, the parent spot located at 260 Lark Street in Albany, and Fin - Your Fishmonger, located in the Star Plaza at 250 Western Avenue in Guilderland.


• The city will say hello some time this month to a takeout-only offshoot of a popular Ballston Spa restaurant. Augie’s Family Style To Go is under development at 223 Lake Avenue, former home of Mario's Pizzeria. Owner Augie Vitiello conceived it as a spot for ready-to-heat-and-eat meals (the sort of thing onetime local "celeb" chef Carmine Sprio tried in Latham with no success some years ago), and he'll be accepting call-in orders. Vitiello, a native of the Bronx, was a Westchester County restaurateur for 13 years before opening Augie's Family Style Italian Restaurant on Church Avenue in Ballston Spa in 2004. After a fire there in 2013, he reopened the business at its current venue, 17 Low Street.

• We're still waiting for the reopening dates for Sperry's, Hamlet & Ghost, and The Ice House after they sustained smoke and water damage in a fierce November fire that gutted neighboring Mio Posto on Putnam Street. The latter has been demolished, and owner Danny Ureschel has said he hopes to find a new location, although not necessarily in Saratoga Springs. Some of the latest announcements, via Facebook: (From Sperry's) "Our reopening date is still yet to be determined but we are trying to make it ASAP! Most circumstances are beyond our control & we are doing our best to be patient. When we finally get the go-ahead to once again open our doors, we will be hosting a Grand Reopening Event that will be open to the entire Saratoga Springs community! In an effort to give back, part of the proceeds from this evening will go back to our loving & loyal employees." (From Hamlet & Ghost) "We extend our appreciation to all who have offered a kind word, shared the news with friends and supporters, and helped us out in so many ways. It is humbling to be part of such a warm community. We will keep you posted about our re-opening." (Nothing from The Ice House. Its phone doesn't work, the listed website does not exist, and the Facebook page hasn't been updated since the fire.)


Donna's Italian and American Restaurant, the successor to the long-running Minnisale's Wine Cellar Cafe that closed last fall at One 14th Street just off Congress Street on the edge of the RPI campus, has been operating in soft-opening mode for two weeks, and will hold an official grand opening this month. New owners Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine (see next item as well), venturing away from their downtown lineup of businesses anchored by the Lucas Confectionary Wine Bar, have moved chef Nick Ruscitto from their Peck's Arcade venue to Donna's.

• What had long been Bradley's Tavern, and before that Dempsey's Bar & Grill, at 28 4th Street downtown, was recently purchased by local entrepreneurs Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine (see previous item). They plan to reopen it in the next few months, perhaps utilizing adjacent kitchen space that had not been in recent use.

Sunhee's Farm and Kitchen, the city's new quick-serve Korean restaurant and market, had its grand opening Friday night at 95 Ferry Street to celebrate receiving its beer-and-wine license from the state. It had been in soft opening mode for a few weeks. The name Sunhee is a mashup of the names of partners Sun Hwa and Chun Hee.


• The Marrello Restaurants & Catering company is putting the finishing touches on its third Bellini's Counter concept restaurant -- pop in, order your dishes the way you want them composed, grab and go -- in its former Creo location in Stuyvesant Plaza. It already has similar venues on Route 9 in Latham and at 33 New Scotland Avenue in Albany. This one will be sharing space with one of the company's Jacob & Anthony's Italian restaurants.

• The latest Crossgates Mall food-and-drink spot will be the 10th link in the Waxy's Modern Irish Bar chain. Promotional material says the location, directly below The Funny Bone Comedy Club in the mall, will have more than 100 beers on tap and 30 TV sets turned on. A spring opening is projected.

• The area's second Sonic Drive-In (the chain's first here opened in 2016 in Latham) is being constructed in the Hudson River Commons shopping complex off Hoosick Street, just east of the Collar City Bridge.


• It's been promised for well more than a year on the company's website and on a sign in a corner of the Fresh Markets Common at the intersection of Route 9 and Route 155, but we have yet to see the first Elevation Burger from the Washington, DC-based international chain. However, recent help-wanted ads for the business give promise we'll soon see an opening-date announcement.

• I'm anxiously awaiting an opening-day announcement for the Cork N Cow, successor to The Epicurean Bistro & Wine Bar in Latham Farms. The venture is headed by Ed Inglis, owner of Sunshine Pools in Wynantskill, whose partnership Latham Farms Cork N Cow LLC has signed a 10-year lease with KIR Latham Farms, owner-operator of the shopping plaza. No word yet on what Cork N Cow will be like in terms of theme or menu, but considering the name and the fact that a liquor license application has been made, it is obvious that meat-and-drink will be involved.


BJ's Brewhouse, part of a national chain, is in the works in the former standalone Sears Auto Center building at Colonie Center.


• The Iron Coffee Company just went into soft opening mode downtown at 9 Main Street in this historic -- and controversial because of polluted water -- Rensselaer County community. Owner Mike Milliron created the business in a new building constructed by Sequence Development on a site twice destroyed by fire, as well as a neighboring vacant lot. It is one of several new businesses that include an art gallery and an antique shop, and a wine bar is expected to open early this year. Three new restaurants also are under development. The new shop offers specialty drinks and whole bean coffees roasted on site, as well as pastries, bagels and croissants. A full breakfast and brunch menu soon will be added.


• With the Rivers Casino and Resort emerging on the local scene, restaurants and a food court are on the near horizon. There, the local Mallozzi Group will debut a steakhouse, a 24-hour grill, Asian fare, a Villa Italia bakery and Johnny's To-Go modeled after its Johnny's downtown Schenectady Italian restaurant. Duke's Chophouse will offer daily casual dinner service for more than 100 guests, plus an outside seasonal patio. Four other options will reside in a food court with central seating. Mian, which also has a location at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, IL, parent of the local casino, will offers dim sum, noodles and rice dishes. Flipt will have burgers and sandwiches, hot dogs, sides and salads 'round-the-clock. The Mallozzi Group also will cater banquets and special events in the 10,000-square-foot conference space, which can handle as many as 900 people.

Ya Ya’s House of Southern Cuisine will reopen somewhere in the city, but the precise location has yet to be announced. It's a bizarre situation. The restaurant, which opened  downtown at 170 Lafayette Street early in 2016 and quickly developed a strong following, has been told to go away by the building owner who says the restaurant cooks too much fried food and the aromas bother her. The restaurateurs emphasized on a Facebook message that they plan to stay in the city.

• The currently-closed Union Inn at 517 Union Street was recently purchased by Phil Ruggiero, owner of Nico’s Pizzeria on State Street, who plans to renovate the historic site and reopen it in May or June if the work schedule stays on target.

Marotta's Bar-Risto, located at 611 Union Street, recently was purchased by a former manager Josh Mackenberg and business partner Joseph Boudreau, who will be converting it from contemporary Italian to a steakhouse concept to be unveiled sometime this spring.


• The Aviation Mall hub of local commerce appears shaky inj the food niche with numerous vacancies. The Auntie Anne's pretzel emporium just closed after a two-decade run. However, the almost abandoned food court just saw the Slice of Italy pizza shop open, joining the NY Grill which for a time had been the only place open there. No word from mall management about what's in the near future there where four of six slots are vacant.


• Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber, who operate the critically-praised Woodstock restaurant Osteria Pane e Salute as well as La Garagista, a biodynamic farm and winery at 1834 Mount Hunter Road in Barnard, plan to open Hart, a combination of a bar à vin-- the French term for a wine bar -- and a tavernetta -- Italian for  a very small tavern -- at the vineyard in the spring.  "It's a simple place, family-run, where you can get a good meal made from local ingredients and a local glass of wine," Heekin told Seven Days, the local arts-and-entertainment publication.

• Church Street Tavern, which has operated in downtown Burlington since 1995, will open a companion location called Tavern II at 408 Shelburne Road in South Burlington in February. That's the former location of Junior's Rustico. Stephen Parent and Scott Michaud purchased the Church Street Tavern in 2014. They say the new location will offer virtually the same menu.

One Radish Eatery just opened at 39 Esplanade in Richmond, former site of the Parkside Kitchen. It is serving breakfast and lunch Tuesdays through Sundays. It is owned by Jessica and Ryan Bunce, owners of Barrio Bakery and Pizza Barrio in Burlington.

• The Mad Taco Montpelier location (owners Joe Nagy and Wes Hamilton also have a spot in Waitsfield) will get a renovation over the next few weeks, adding communal tables, a bar with seating, and several more taps to go along with a full liquor license. That should help further overcome the venue's former life as a Subway shop.


• Harold Tramazzo, owner of Hangar Pub and Grill and the Wings Over franchise, plans to purchase the former Chameleons nightclub  at 1350 East Street in Pittsfield as the venue for a Berkshires location of Hangar Pub. Tramazzo owns the original Hangar in Amherst, another in Westfield, and last summer opened one in Greenfield. He also manages the Amherst Brewing Company. Hangar offers an aviation concept.
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Epicurean Cartoonery

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Chianti Il Ristorante unveils cooking school series

Chef Fabrizio
Interested in learning about regional Italian cooking? Fabrizio Bazzani, executive chef at Chianti Il Ristorante, has a series of seven "Cooking School" classes that will stretch from January into April.

Participants can select one or more of the classes, and reserve a seat for $55 each, tax and tip not included, by calling 583-1142. All classes begin at 6:30 p.m. in the restaurant's La Porta Santa Room, 18 Division Street, Saratoga Springs.

The schedule and the regions:
  • January 10, Emiglia Romagna
  • January 24, Marche
  • February 7, Umbria
  • February 28, Puglia
  • March 14, Calabria
  • March 28, Sardegna
  • April 4, Lombardia
Bazzani, Chianti's longtime executive chef, is a native of Italy who cooked in restaurants in Florence before moving to Southern California and then to Saratoga Springs after meeting David Zecchini, founder of Chianti and the city's other DZ Restaurants.

Food and drink headlines from around the globe

• Inside the world's best bar of 2016

• 5 nutrition trends you should follow in 2017

• Where does Red Lobster actually get its lobsters? 

• Holiday gift baskets recalled over salmonella risk

• The weirdest food facts in every state (slideshow)

• Despite pledges to cut back, farms are still using antibiotics

• A good nose in service of science: When fish smells 'fishy'

Capital Region breweries list nears the 50 mark

The Greater Capital Region, and then some
Depending on how one draws the imaginary boundaries of the geographic area loosely known as the Greater Capital Region, the number of micro, nano and craft breweries inhabiting it ebbs and flows.

I keep the definition rather loose, given the propensity of people in this area to travel a bit to attend the many drinks and food shows and festivals with which it abounds. Thus, certain nearby parts of the Adirondacks, Catskills and Cooperstown area are included in my latest compilation of breweries, which includes at least one scheduled to open early this year, that is approaching the 50 mark.
    1. Adirondack Pub & Brewery, 33 Canada Street, Lake George
    2. Argyle Brewing, One Main Street, Greenwich
    3. Artisinal Brew Works, 41 Geyser Road, Saratoga Springs 
    4. Battle Hill Brewing Co., 4 Charles Street, Fort Ann
    5. Beer Diviner, 461 Broadway, Troy, and 243 Bly Hollow Road, Petersburg
    6. Big Slide Brewery & Public House, 5686 Cascade Road, Lake Placid 
    7. Big Tupper Brewing, 12 Cliff Avenue, Tupper Lake
    8. Brewery LaHoff, 50 Vedder Road, Coxsackie (to open in 2017)
    9. Brewery Ommegang, 656 County Highway 33, Cooperstown
    10. Brown's Brewing Co., 417 River Street, Troy, and 50 Factory Hill Road, North Hoosick
    11. Cave Mountain Brewing Co., 5359 State Route 23, Windham
    12. Chatham Brewing, 59 Main Street, Chatham
    13. C.H. Evans Brewing/Albany Pump Station, 19 Quackenbush Square, Albany
    14. Common Roots Brewing Co., 58 Saratoga Avenue, South Glens Falls
    15. Cooper's Cave Ale Co., 2 Sagamore Street, Glens Falls
    16. Cooperstown Brewing Co., 110 River Street, Milford  
    17. Council Rock Brewery, 4861 State Highway 28, Cooperstown
    18. Crossroads Brewing Co., 21 Second Street, Athens
    19.  Davidson Brothers Brewing Co., 184 Glen Street, Glens Falls
    20. Druthers, 381 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, and 1053 Broadway, Albany
    21.  Dutch Ale House, 255 Main Street, Saugerties
    22. Great Adirondack Brewing Co., 2442 Main Street, Lake Placid
    23. Green Wolf Brewing, 315 Main Street, Middleburgh
    24. Hank Hudson Brewing, The Fairways of Halfmoon, 17 Johnson Road, Mechanicville
    25. Helderberg Brewery, Carey Institute for Global Good, 100 Pond Hill Road, Rensselaerville 
    26. Helderberg Mountain Brewing Co., 141 Warners Lake Road, East Berne
    27. Honey Hollow Brewing Co., 376 East Honey Hollow Road, Earlton
    28. Hudson Brewing Co., 99 South 3rd Street, Hudson
    29. Indian Ladder Farmstead Brewery and Cidery, 342 Altamont-Voorheesville Road, Altamont
    30. Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, 813 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid  
    31. Mad Jack Brewing, The Van Dyck Lounge,237 Union Street, Schenectady
    32. Mean Max Brew Works, 193 Glen Street, Glens Falls
    33. Olde Saratoga Brewing Co., 131 Excelsior Avenue, Saratoga Springs 
    34. Paradox Brewery, 154 Route 9, Schroon Lake 
    35. Racquette River Brewing, 11 Balsam Street, Tupper Lake,
    36. Rare Form Brewing Co., 90 Congress Street, Troy  
    37. Real McCoy Beer Co., 20 Hallwood Road, Delmar
    38. Red Shed Brewery, 817 Butterbowl Road, Cherry Valley
    39. Rip Van Winkle Brewing, Angela's Italian Bistro & Brewery, 4545 NY Route 32, Catskill
    40. R.S. Taylor & Sons Brewery, 3602 County Route 30, Salem
    41. Serious Brewing Co., 116 Caverns Road, Howes Cave
    42. Shmaltz Brewing Co., 6 Fairchild Square, Clifton Park
    43. Sloop Brewing, 1065 County Route 19, Elizaville
    44. S&S Farm Brewery, 174 Middle Road, Nassau
    45. Steadfast Beer Co., 90 State Street, Albany
    46. Wolf Hollow Brewing Co., 6882 Amsterdam Road, Glenville

    • Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
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    Lake Placid restaurateur transitioning to life in Florida

    Charlie Levitz
    Charlie Levitz, the longtime Lake Placid chef-restaurateur, is in the process of transitioning his career to a less public level in Florida.

    I ran into Levitz during the Christmas-New Year interim when he was back in the Greater Capital Region to handle a series of private events. Levitz, who was chef-owner of both the long-running Chair 6 and the shorter-run Charlie's -- and its T-Bar cocktail lounge -- restaurants in the Adirondacks village, told me his was in the process of completing a relocation to Stuart, FL.

    "I've been working on setting up a business as a private and special events chef," he said. "It's not simple to reestablish in a new market, but it certainly is less stressful than handling the responsibilities of both owning and operating private restaurants in a seasonally-popular place."

    Levitz, 62, a native of Albany, closed Charlie's several years ago and closed his more-successful Chair 6 last summer after a 15-year run to concentrate exclusively on his work as a private chef and on special event catering.

    His recent move to Florida's Treasure Coast, he said, is because his mother lives there and his wife, Rachel, "loves living there."
    • Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
    • Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
    • Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

    Lactofermentation lessons, anyone?

    You may know the process as pickling, but the technical term is lactofermentation. Whatever you call it, it helps create pickles, capers, sauerkraut, kimchi and the like. And, you can learn the process first-hand.

    Chef Rob Handel will conduct a three-hour class next Saturday (January 7) at Heather Ridge Farm, and then a more intensive session March 3 through 5.

    Rob Handel
    On Saturday, Handel will be demonstrating the proper techniques, tools, vegetable selection, and procedure from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Registration, which is required, is $50 per person which includes a meal. Call: 239-6234.

    In the March session, Handel will discuss and prepare a wide range of ferments, utilizing bacteria, yeasts, and molds. Other topics covered will include troubleshooting failed ferments, ways to utilize fermented foods in everyday meals, and how to construct basic fermentation equipment from common objects.

    Handel is the chef at Heather Ridge Farm and its Bees Knees Café, which offers a variety of classes and special dinners year-round. The farm is located at 989 Broome Center Road in Preston Hollow, in the town of Rensselaerville, located in the southwest corner of Albany County.
    • Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
    • Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
    • Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

    Multi-maker cider extravaganza at Nine Pin

    If you couldn't gain admission to the inaugural "Gathering of the Farm Cideries" last year -- it sold out quickly -- you'll have another chance on Saturday, February 18.

    Nine Pin Cider Works, located at 929 Broadway in Albany, will host the third annual celebration of  craft cider makers on its production floor. Farm cideries across the state will be represented, offering visitors free samples of unique batches of ciders all made from New York-grown apples. Numerous limited batches of cider will be available for sale.

    This is a ticketed event with two sessions -- noon to 3 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Tickets, which include admission and an event-branded tasting glass, now are on sale online at $20 per person, with any leftover tickets going for $30 at the door the day of the event. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the New York Cider Association.

    Nine Pin, incidentally,  will begin a monthly first-Saturday series of tours of the 17,000-square-foot  facility with cider maker Kevin Brew on January 7. Limited tickets are available through the website.
    • Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
    • Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
    • Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

    Lark Street closing hours a mixed bag for all

    After a long and heated debate, the City of Albany has reached a decision on how long nightspots can stay open. Some business owners and patrons will like it, some will hate it, and residents who objected to ultra-late hours they say has led to quality-of-life issues will continue to be unhappy.

    As reported on the Times Union website Wednesday,"Established nightspots on Lark Street and nearby side streets can continue closing at their normal hours, some as late as 4 a.m. Late last week city officials and Lark Street business owners reached a compromise over a proposed 2 a.m. closure, allowing businesses that already have permission to stay open until 4 a.m. to keep those closing hours. For some businesses like Palais Royale on Jefferson Street, the closing hours proposed would have darkened the city mainstay at 11 p.m. The decades-old bar typically is open until 4 a.m.

    "While established businesses with the legal right can remain open until 4 a.m., the closing restrictions outlined in the citywide Albany ReZone would have to be adhered to by new businesses, city Planning Director Chris Spencer said.

    Shauna Collins, executive director of the Lark Street Business Improvement District, was quoted as saying the changes meet “the majority of our needs.”

    As the story also notes, "Area residents had said they struggled for years with the noise, broken bottles and vomit on doorsteps after bars let out at 4 a.m., and hoped earlier closing times might cut down on problems."

    Go here for the full story.
    • Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
    • Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
    • Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

    Saturday, December 17, 2016

    We're returning in the New Year

    After a layoff of 10 months to devote research and writing time to some other projects, Notes On Napkins will be coming back in January 2017, right after the holiday bustle has receded.

    It will resume being an informative companion to Dowd On Drinks, occasionally with a little bit of crossover between the two blogs when dealing with topics involving both food and drink, but mostly dealing with their specialty topics.

    Both will continue to concentrate on New York's Greater Capital Region, but won't hesitate to go farther afield when something interesting comes up,

    As always, your participation is welcomed. That includes submitting comments on posts, or sending along news of special events, menu changes, major staff changes, openings and -- sometimes regrettably -- closings, and other news tidbits. If you put this email address -- -- in your contact list right now you'll be all set to participate.

    Meanwhile, a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year to all. Looking forward to getting back together with you in 2017.