Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tap NY judges spread the wealth statewide

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TAP New York President Bill Woodring (left presents the Governor's Cup for Best New York Craft Beer to Jeannie Alexander, Ryan Demler and Ethan Cox of Community Beer Works in  Buffalo for its The Whale Brown Ale. 

Breweries from one end of the state to the other wound up at the top of the judges' lists in major categories at the 20th annual TAP New York Craft Beer and Food Festival, held this weekend at the Hunter Mountain Ski Resort. They were:

• F.X. Matt Memorial Cup (Best Craft Beer Brewery in New York State) -- Spider Bite Brewing Co.  of Holbrook, Long Island. It also won the John Calen Memorial Award (best English style stout in New York State) for its Spider Imperial English Stout.

•  The Matthew Vassar Brewers' Cup (Best Craft Beer Brewery in the Hudson Valley) -- Chatham Brewing Co. of Columbia County.

• Governors' Cup (Best Craft Beer in New York State) -- The Whale Brown Al from Community Beer Works in Buffalo.

In addition, the medal winners in various categories were:

Wheat Beers
Gold: 12 Gates Brewing Co. (Williamsville), Cherry Vanilla Wheat
Silver: Wolf Hollow Brewing (Schenectady), Brunette"s Revenge
Bronze: New Paltz Brewing (New Paltz), Gratzer German Wheat

Light/dark/strong Lagers
Gold: Chatham Brewing (Chatham), Bock & Bock Dopplebock
Silver: Catskill Brewing (Livingston Manor), Ball Lightning Pilsner
Bronze: 12 Gates Brewing (Williamsville), Water Mill Pils

Pale Ales
Gold: Destination Unknown (Bay Shore), Mosaic Mood
Silver: Peekskill Brewing (Peekskill), Paramount Pale Ale
Bronze:Seneca Lake Brewing (Dundee), Baker Street Best Bitter

Light Ales (below 6% alcohol)
Gold: Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn), Naranjito
Silver: Lyonsmith Brewing (Penn Yan), Rhiannon Red Ale
Bronze: Rare Form Brewing (Troy), Raw Beets

Strong Ales (above 6% alcohol)
Gold: Crossroads (Athens), Barleywine
Silver: Willow Rock (Syracuse), Rugged Scotch Ale
Bronze: Hopshire Farm Brewery (Dryden), Shire Scotch Ale

Brown Ales
Gold: Community Beer Works (Buffalo), The Whale
Silver: Council Rock (Cooperstown), Leatherstocking Brown
Bronze: Willow Rock Brewing (Syracuse), Jim

India Pale Ale
Gold: Flagship Brewing (Staten Island), American IPA
Silver: Keegan Ales (Kingston), Fun
Bronze: Hudson Ale Works (Highland), Citra Mosaic

Strong India Pale Ale
Gold: Big Ditch (Buffalo), Deep Cut
Silver: Spider Bite Brewing (Holbrook), Open Wide
Bronze: Sloop (Poughkeepsie), Double Plus Good

Porter
Gold: The Farmhouse (Owego), Mama Maple, Etc
Silver: Broken Bow Brewery (Tuckahoe), Nick's Hazlenut Praline
Bronze: Mad Jack (Schenectady), Mont Pleasant

Irish Style Stout
Gold:The North Brewey (Endicott), Sno Clouds
Silver: Hudson Brewing (Hudson), Tainted Senorita
Bronze: Kings County Brewers Collective (Brooklyn), What We Don't See Imperial

English Style Stout
Gold: Spider Bite Beer Company (Holbrook), Boris The Spider Imperial English Stout
Silver: Spider Bite Beer Company (Holbrook),  Boris The Spider Barrel Aged Imperial English Stout Bronze: Big Ditch (Buffalo), Towpath

Belgian Ale (below 8% alcohol)
Gold: LIC Beer Project (Long Island City), Ardent Core Saison
Silver: Nedloh Brewery (Bloomfield), Flx Farmhouse Saison
Bronze: War Horse Brewing Co. (Geneva), Killer Monk Double

Strong Belgian Ale (above 8% alcohol)
Gold:- C.H. Evans Brewing Co. (Albany), Union Station Quad 2017
Silver: Great Adirondack Brewing (Lake Placid), Room 237 Flanders Red
Bronze: Catskill Brewing (Livingston Manor), Freak Tractor Blonde

Barrel Aged Beer
Gold: Matt Brewing Co (Utica), Basking In Bourbon
Silver: Shmaltz Brewing (Clifton Park), Funky Jewbalation
Bronze: 42 North (Buffalo), Borderland IPA

Sour Beer
Gold: Catskill Brewing (Livingston Manor), Eye Of Newt Flanders Red
Silver: Brown's Brewing (Troy), Raspberry Sour
Bronze: Keuka (Hammondsport), Ghost Of Rita Gose

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Something is new at the old Red Lion Inn: the kitchen

In the new kitchen (Berkshire Eagle photo)
From The Berkshire Eagle
STOCKBRIDGE, MA -- Just in time for the seasonal rush of patrons seeking a traditional, authentic New England dining experience, the historic 125-room Red Lion Inn has completed a $1.2 million renovation of its kitchen. It's the first upgrade of that facility in more than 50 years.

The new state-of-the-art equipment and structural improvements promise to streamline service for the nearly 60-member year-round culinary staff, said the inn's general manager Michele Kotek ... .

The nearly two-month project ... required closing the popular main dining room to all but inn guests [but] the inn is back to serving three meals a day, seven days a week, and its popular Lion's Den pub, offering nightly entertainment and a more informal menu from its separate kitchen, is open from 4:30 until after midnight weekdays, and noon to midnight on weekends.
Go here for the full story plus a video and still-photos tour.
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Ginsberg's closes iconic Columbia County grocery

Ginsberg's Institutional Foods has made a move that eliminates a Columbia County grocery store that has been in business since 1909 selling Hudson Valley-made products.

The historic Morton’s Market closed for good on Friday in the community of Claverack. Ginsberg's, the food distributor that owns it, is converting the venue into a will-call center for local customers picking up any of the company’s 8,000 products.

Ginsberg’s also is closing its call center on the third floor of 1 Hudson City Centre in Hudson. Employees there will move into the space formerly occupied by Morton's by the end of June.

In a prepared statement, Ginsberg's COO John Brusie said, "In an effort to better serve our customers, we’re turning Morton’s into a will-call center. We are going to repurpose this space for office staff and continue to grow our business. The market retail side of the business will be no longer, but our every-day customers can come in to pick up items. It will make it easier and more efficient."

Ginsberg’s, which is adjacent to Morton’s and which itself was founded the same year, has a delivery area touching six states. It has been headquartered in Claverack since 1977. According to the company website, each week its 35-truck fleet travels more than 30,000 miles in and around New York state. For almost 30 years, Ginsberg’s has been a member of UniPro Foodservice, a procurement conglomerate consisting of more than 650 independent distributors nationwide.
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Update: Rotterdam boil-water advisory lifted

UPDATE (4/29/17): A boil-water advisory issued Friday in Rotterdam was lifted at about 10:30 this morning by the Schenectady County Department of Environmental Health.

(Originally posted 4/28/17)

If you plan on eating or drinking at any commercial spots in Rotterdam, you'd be advised to ask them if they have boiled their water.

The Schenectady County Department of Environmental Health on Thursday issued a boil-water order Thursday after an equipment problem was reported at the town water plant. The order, covering drinking or cooking water, will remain in effect for a day or more until testing confirms there is no bacteria in the water.

It is a result of the failure of a chlorine gas injection system at the Rice Road water treatment plant which draws water from wells in the Great Flats aquifer.

Water should be boiled for at least one minute. The Health Department said boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and all food preparation.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Albany's Pine Hills getting new Mediterranean restaurant

Nearly ready for business
What once was a Bruegger's Bagels shop is in the process of becoming the Kismet Mediterranean Grill.

The venture, located at Madison Avenue and South Allen Street in Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood, may open within the next few weeks, according to owner-chef Chingiz Jafarov.

This is the first restaurant for the immigrant from Azerbaijan who has lived in the U.S. for 13 years.

“I hope to reach a lot of people who aren’t familiar with Mediterranean cuisine and introduce them to something I think they’ll love,” he said in a Times Union interview. “I’ve also spoken to a lot of people in the area and most seem to agree that we do need a good Mediterranean restaurant in the neighborhood.”
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Hudson bakery moving to Athens, will expand operation

One might think Hudson with its larger population and bustling restaurant district would be a better fit for an upscale bakery than quieter Athens just across the Hudson River.

However, the owners of Bonfiglio & Bread have announced they will close their Warren Street location on May 8 when their lease is up,  and set up an expanded business in a bigger space in Athens they hope to have open early this summer.

The five-year-old bakery supplies a number of restaurants in the Capital Region, but plans to put that portion of the business on hold until the transition is complete.

Owners Rachel Sanzone and Gabriele Gulielmetti said in a Facebook announcement, "We understand that we are no longer around the corner for many of you, but hope that you will follow us across river. We are expanding on our program, adding a provisions section, espresso, a LICK ice cream kiosk, more lunch fare, prepared foods, beer and wine and, of course, bread and pastries. There will be expanded seating."

Curiously, their announcement does not specify the location of the new Athens venue.
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Sandy's Clam Bar pays delinquent taxes, avoids auction

UPDATE (4/28/17): A federal auction of Sandy's Clam Bar in Glens Falls for unpaid back taxes has been called off. Owner Richard Mozal has paid off the delinquent tax bill on the business his father and a business partner founded in 1953. He has operated it since 1973. The venue is popular for its classic rock shows, but has a long history of financial problems and closures.

(Originally published 3/27/17)

From The Post-Star
GLENS FALLS -- The U.S. Department of Treasury has seized the Sandy’s Clam Bar building at 41 South Street in downtown for failure of owner Richard Mozal to pay Internal Revenue Service taxes.

The IRS filed a lien on the property in July 2012 for unpaid federal wage and investment taxes, according to Warren County deed records. A public auction of the building has been scheduled for 11 a.m. April 27, with a minimum bid of $88,454, according to a “public auction sale” notice dated March 20.

Redevelopment of the building, a longtime popular venue for live music, would fit with the city’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative plan, which focuses on South Street, said Mayor Jack Diamond.
Go here for the full story.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Epicurean Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 



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FDA may have postponed menu labeling requirements

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

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

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

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

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Utah continues its complicated relationship with alcohol

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

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

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

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

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

Arby’s reports 26th consecutive quarter of growth

Why Subway is shrinking

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

Transitioning Panera Bread reports another strong quarter

Burger King parent company plots growth for Popeyes 

Big Mac makeover helps McDonald's overcome restaurant slump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Originally published 4/5/17)

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

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

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

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

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

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Wing Fest coming up this Saturday in Glens Falls

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

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

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

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

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

(Originally published 3/3/17)

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Another brewery/brewpub on the drawing boards in Troy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce is working with State Sen. Elizabeth Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) on just such an initiative. They would like to designate a regional craft beverage and winemaking trail for Warren and Washington counties under a state Department of Transportation (DOT) program. What it would entail is placing signs along state roadways directing motorists to craft breweries, wineries and distilleries, as well as including such a trail in the state's advertising and marketing of the craft beverage industry.

The effort is being buoyed by Travelocity and The American Distilling Institute recently putting the Glens Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area in its new index of top 10 small U.S. metro areas for craft spirits tourism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
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Monday, April 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subway debuts Facebook Messenger ordering

Pizza Hut to debut new pizza builder

KFC enlists Rob Lowe for the next colonel

Red Robin launches digital ordering nationwide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sneak peek at the Finnbar's Pub summer menu

The courtyard at Finnbar's Pub (photo provided)
New local restaurant menus for spring and/or summer keep popping up. One of the latest is at Finnbar's Pub in Troy, where owner Sean Patrick Costello has just shared a few new dishes to pair with some of the 32 beers on tap available there.

Here's an advance look at examples of things they'll be offering this summer indoors as well as on the back patio courtyard when the summer menu goes into effect in a few weeks. Most of the items, including the sandwich buns, are made in-house:

Crab cakes with balsamic reduction drizzle; whiskey chicken, black bean, or pulled pork tacos with guacamole aioli ; chicken sandwich with honey mustard and Swiss cheese on a bun; the return of the black bean burger; a  Hawaiian burger -- fresh-ground beef patty with grilled fresh pineapple, jalapenos and pineapple salsa.

Finnbar's Pub is located at 452 Broadway in downtown Troy next to the U.S. Post Office. Hours: noon to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, to midnight Friday and Saturday, closed Monday. Phone: (518) 326-3994.
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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Savoy Tap Room debuts its spring-summer menu

The Savoy Taproom's spring-summer menu has debuted, and chef Riyonna Caswell has some interesting offerings lined up at the Albany restaurant, many of which should pair well with Savoy's signature cocktail list.

A few examples:

Jalapeño popper deviled eggs (crispy fried hard boiled eggs, jalapeño egg yolk filling, grana padana cheese, greens); Chef Riyonna's mac-and-cheese (with chorizo and caramelized apple); cheese boards, hummus boards, and charcuterie boards; shrimp and scallop truffle risotto; house made fettucine with black garlic cream sauce; cherry brandy pomegranate strip steak, and the Savoy burgers that begin with a blend of short rib and brisket.

The Savoy is located at 301 Lark Street, long them home of Justin's, in downtown Albany. Phone: (518) 599-5140.
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Friday, April 21, 2017

Craft ice cream shop opening in dowtown Troy

Home-to-be for Dutch Udder (photo provided)
If you're looking for innovative additions to the Capital Region food scene, you can't go wrong zeroing in on Troy.

Dutch Udder Craft Ice Cream, familiar to some locals for the treats it has been selling at events, will open at  282B River Street at Franklin some time next month. That location previously was home to The Botanic Studio home decor shop.

The Dutch Udder business was founded in 2013 by Kehmally Karl and Jeff McCauley, who have a commercial kitchen in Cohoes. Among the whimsical flavors of ice cream, ice cream pies, etc., they have offered since then are Nine Pin Cider sorbet, chocolate coconut, "hot" chocolate with a touch of chipotle and tiny marshmallows, and pink velvet cookie dough.
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Ginger Man's spring menu a burst of flavors

Roasted tomato tart
Spring is looking tasty at The Ginger Man in Albany.

The wine bar restaurant's spring menu from Stephen Barrett and Harley Bleitzhofer is laden with a variety of comfort and Old World-influenced foods:

Some examples from the new menu: cockles and mussels in a coconut curry milk broth; herb and goat cheese potato croquettes with truffled garlic cream; gluten-free vegetable bouillabaise over rice noodles; Scotch egg with maple mustard sauce; lamb meatloaf stuffed with white beans, feta, spinach and feta, and a roasted heirloom tart (pictured) containing creamed leeks over smoked tomato coulis, served with Maple Brook Farms Burrata, balsamic pearl onions and half roasted garlic bulb.

Lunch and dinner are served Monday through Friday, and dinner only on Saturday. Phone: (518) 427-5963.
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City Beer Hall cooking dinner at Common Roots Brewing

Beer-and-food pairing dinners usually are held at restaurants. Here's one going in the other direction.

Common Roots Brewing in South Glens Falls will be hosting such an event, called "An Evening of Wild beers," cooked by visiting staff from Albany's City Beer Hall.

The five-course dinner, set for 6 p.m. next Tuesday, will feature food paired with Common Roots’ special sour and barrel-aged beers, some exclusive to the event. Reservations, priced at $60 including tax and tip, must be purchased in advance online.

Common Roots is located at 58 Saratoga Avenue. Phone: (518) 409-8248.
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Brooklyn Crush's spring edition is in the works

The Brooklyn Crush Wine & Artisanal Food Festival is becoming a major player in the state's pantheon of such events. The "spring edition" of the biannual event is set for Saturday, May 13, at Industry City in the borough's Sunset Park.

The tasting will feature more than 175 wines, ciders and other adult drinks, as well as light fare and hors d’oeuvres, plus numerous artisan food tables offering samples of charcuterie, baked goods, olive oils, vegan selections, cheeses, non-alcoholic beverages, salsas and spreads, chocolates, and other specialty foods. Providers will offer full-sized items for patrons to purchase.

Old, new and emerging wine regions will be showcased, including varietals from the U.S. -- with several New York State wineries to be featured, Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. Vendor and winery lineups will be regularly updated on the festival website.

Tickets now are on sale, priced from $59 to $120, depending upon ticket level and time of purchase. Additional details of the event and ticket purchasing are available online.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Chain Links

Your connections to news items about chains operating in the Greater Capital Region:

Papa John's unveils gluten-free, ancient grains pizza

KFC's latest plan to beat its chicken competition

How Popeyes’ name change helped turn its fortunes

Cracker Barrel -- Popular restaurant chain with significant upside



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Update 2: Troubled Noodles & Co. fires its COO

UPDATE (4/19/17): The spiral continues at Noodles & Company. The financially troubled company that last month abruptly pulled out of the Albany County market today made a one-line announcement in  a federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing that said its chief operations officer, Victor Heutz, was terminated “effective immediately.” There was no explanation for the move. He had been in the position for just nine months.

UPDATE (3/1/17): As I noted 2½ weeks ago, employees of the Noodles & Company restaurants locally were waiting for the inevitable after the chain said it would close 55 locations, most of them among its newer ventures. Now, that has happened, with both the Crossgates Commons and The Shoppes at Latham Circle venues closed down.

(Originally published 2/10/17)

Staff at two Noodles & Company restaurants in Albany County are waiting for the other shoe to drop after the chain today announced it will close 55 of its company-owned locations because of weak sales figures.

While the announcement did not specify which locations would close, it did specify that many of the targeted venues "were opened in the last two to three years in newer markets where brand awareness of the company’s restaurants is not as strong as in other markets. These restaurants have significantly underperformed the company’s restaurant averages.”

The Colorado-based company, founded in 1995, has just two New York State locations -- one in Crossgates Commons off Washington Avenue Extension in Albany, and one in The Shoppes at Latham Circle. Both opened last year. 

Noodles, which closed 16 sites a little over a year ago but still has more than 400 locations, had said in November that it was contemplating closing even more. Now, that is coming to pass, with the latest closing scheduled for the first and second quarters of the year.

The company's menu specializes in domestic and international noodle dishes, soups, salads, and the like cooked to order. 

Also today, Noodles announced preliminary, partial fourth-quarter results ahead of its official earnings report, projecting "a system-wide decrease in comparable restaurant sales of 1.3%,  including a 1.8% decline at company-owned restaurants and a 2% increase at franchised locations." It would be the sixth consecutive quarter of year-over-year declines of sales at locations open at least a year.

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The Hungry Hollow, Albany's newest venue, opens today

Albany's newest restaurant, The Hungry Hollow, debuted today with a "sneak preview" and is scheduled to open next Monday at Sheridan Avenue and Dove Street in the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood.

The restaurant is owned by the husband-and-wife team of John Baideme and Janet Rothacker, Their son, Chris Baideme, a graduate of the hospitality programs at Schenectady County Community College and SUNY Delhi, is the general manager.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, April 28. The new venture will serve breakfast and lunch only. Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Phone: (518) 729-2745.
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Independent Wynantskill sandwich shop closes, may relocate

What do you get when you open an independent sandwich shop in the same small Wynantskill retail strip as a Subway franchise? You get to close after barely two years in operation.

But, that doesn't mean it's permanent, according to a Faceboook note from chef-owner Marlon Coley, who wrote: "It is with a heavy heart we say goodbye to all our loyal Samwichers,. We hope to see you all again soon ... possibly in a new location. We truly thank all of you for your business. Keep your eyes and ears open. Sincerely, Marlon, Jennifer & Chris."

No word on whether the presence of a Subway played a role in the decision to close the Main Avenue business, but the possibility of a relocation seems to point in that direction. Given the fact that Coley's menu was a cut above the neighboring chain's fare, a return somewhere else would be welcome.
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New restaurant coming to former courthouse in Hudson Falls

A.J. Richards
The former Washington County Courthouse in Hudson Falls, being renovated by the organization Phoenix Rising, will have a new restaurant on the main floor of the building.

The restaurant Forged will be run by A.J. Richards, a certified executive chef (CEC), and Christina Ostrander, a local resident. The couple plans to be married sometime between the restaurant's soft opening in early May and the end of that month.

Richards has been the executive chef of The View Restaurant at  Dunham's Bay Resort in Lake George. There, his menus -- including the wines, beers and spirits -- leaned heavily toward locally-sourced ingredients, a preference the Syracuse native said in in a 2013 interview that stemmed from his earlier work under chef Brian Sterner at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs.

Having a restaurant in the building is part of a revival plan that will include community meeting spaces and a youth center.

"We have been very particular about the type of restaurant we would accept to lease the space, and both of these people have extensive restaurant experience," said William Nikas, the village attorney who heads Phoenix Rising. "They will offer a fine-dining experience on one side of the restaurant and a pub menu on the bar side, covering a much broader range of menu choices than you'll see in other local restaurants."
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Albany's 'Champagne On the Park' tickets now on sale

Tickets now are on sale for the annual "Champagne On the Park" fundraiser for Albany's Lark Street Business Improvement District (BID).

The Thursday, May 11, event in Washington Park's tulip beds will feature the Graham Tichy Band and will honor leaders of the Lark Street community for their positive impact on the neighborhood. There will be, among other attractions, hors d'oeuvres and desserts from neighborhood restaurants and food purveyors, Champagne and wine from Capital Wine & Spirits, cider from Nine Pin Ciderworks, craft beer from Chatham Brewing, photos by Rose & Dale, and cigars from Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe.

Tickets, available online, range from $65 to $80 and various offers expire at different times.
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A curious restaurant idea: All avocados, all the time


OK, budding restaurateurs, here's your assignment. Select one -- repeat, just one -- central ingredient for your new bar-restaurant.

Beef? Chicken? Tofu? Pasta? Nah. How about avocados?

The Avocaderia has just opened in Brooklyn. It is believed to be the world's first quick-service avocado bar featuring items made with organic avocados grown in the Mexican state of Michoacán  and fairly traded to the U.S. at an affordable price for consumers.

According to ABC News Radio, breakfast and lunch bowls as well as salads, toasts, smoothies and, of course, guacamole, will appear on the innovative menu.

"The inspiration for opening up an exclusively avocado joint came from co-founder Francesco Brachetti, an Italian immigrant who moved to Mexico and fell in love with the hugely popular produce item. 'Avocados in Mexico were delicious and widely used in many different dishes,' Brachetti said. 'Suddenly I was having avocado every day -- I loved the healthy and tasty characteristic of this super fruit.'

The Avocaderia, open only on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., is located in the Industry City Food Hall at 254 36th Street. The venue is a six-million-square-foot collection of warehouse structures situated on the waterfront in Brooklyn's Sunset Park.


Curious how this will work? Go here for the full story.
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Monday, April 17, 2017

A Golden Corral restaurant closes while under state probe

Half of the Golden Corral restaurant chain's New York State locations are in the Greater Capital Region, but they apparently are not involved in  a lawsuit and surprising closure of the Poughkeepsie venue.

That franchise, which opened less than two months ago, is under investigation by the New York State Department of Labor after former employees at the restaurant filed complaints saying the franchise owner failed to pay multiple employees. It quickly closed in a move described as “unprecedented” by Bill Marks, a spokesman for the Golden Corral corporation. He added, “Golden Corral has never had a restaurant close so quickly after opening.”

Franchise owner Sherrance Henderson initially declined to comment, but later sent a text to the Poughkeepsie Journal that put a different twist on the situation, saying: “I would’ve continued providing employment opportunities and going through my growing pains to be the best buffet in the area if I was afforded the opportunity by Golden Corral. As a result of Golden Corral terminating my license agreement, I was not able to continue the employment and other opportunities that were afforded by the revenue of the store.”

The Journal interviewed several former employees who said they had not been paid in several weeks and, consequently, filed complaints with the state.

In the Greater Capital Region, Golden Corral has locations at 1901 Central Avenue in Colonie; 15 Old Glick Road in Saratoga Springs, and 75 Quaker Road in Queensbury.

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Fire engulfs Oneonta's iconic Christophers restaurant-lodge

Christophers before the fire (photo provided)
Smoldering ruins (photo by (Ian Austin for AllOTSEGO.com)
The owners of Christophers, a longtime restaurant and lodge operation on Oneonta's Southside just off I-88, are taking stock of what to do next after a Saturday fire that apparently began in the dining area caused widespread damage to the facility.

At least one firefighter quoted by local media didn't take long to make an assessment, saying “It no longer exists. It’s been completely destroyed.”

The fire was so widespread that 15 fire companies provided mututal aid to Oneonta firefighters. Because there are no hydrants in the Southside area, water was drawn from the Susquehanna River and the creek behind the restaurant.

Christophers, owned by Marty and Brenda Patton, has been a local fixture for more than  a half-century at 716 State Highway 28. Among its attractions where Adirondack-style rooms for lodgers and a steak-centric restaurant menu.

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Firehouse Subs tries something new for the sandwich world

Besides adding a new sauce or combination of the usual ingredients, it's not that easy to introduce something new to the sandwich world.

The newest try is from Firehouse Subs, the 1,000+-unit chain that entered the Capital Region market in 2014. It is rolling out smaller versions of its sandwiches systemwide in a move to attract new customers and drive frequency among existing guests, according to an announcement from CEO Don Fox.

That may sound like just another way of making a half sandwich, something every competitor does. In this instance, however, the smaller subs replace the chain’s lower-calorie Hearty & Flavorful sandwich line which had consisted of reformulated versions of regular subs with less bread and lighter sauces and cheeses. The sandwiches had under 500 calories, but had similar price points to full-calorie items.

"As things progressed, we thought it was more important to have some greater variety, and maybe a greater opportunity on price point," Fox told Nation’s Restaurant News. The sandwiches were tested in some markets in the fall and, Fox said, they far outperformed the Hearty & Flavorful sandwiches. "In fact, we were selling more than twice the number."

The new sandwiches have two ounces of protein instead of the four ounces in medium subs. They are 3.5 to 4 inches long and start at $3.99 for a Hook & Ladder, made with smoked turkey breast, Virginia honey ham and melted Monterey Jack cheese.

Although Firehouse Subs has a number of locations throughout New York State, the only one in the Capital Region is in the shopping strip at 860 Loudon Road (Route 9) in Latham near the entrance to Latham Farms.
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Angelo's 677 Prime going high-end Mexican for a night

A part of the 677 Prime dining room (photo provided)
Angelo’s 677 Prime in Albany is going Mexican for a night. No, not that low-brow or Tex-Mex stuff, but rather a thoughtfully created menu paired with a selection of tequilas and mescals.

The meal will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, May 5. Reservations, which are required, are $100 per person not incuding tax and tip and priced at $100 per person, plus tax and tip, so you're somewhere in the $125-$130 range.

The beverage and food menus, all involving Don Julio brand spirits, are available here.

Angelo's is located at 677 Broadway. Reservations: (518) 427-7463.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tala American Bistro's new chef unveils his first menu

Eric Marrish
The debut of a new head chef's first menu is always of interest to foodies. The latest to appear is at Tala American Bistro in Latham.

Eric Marrish is the new executive chef of the Mazzone Hospitality-operated restaurant tucked into the same building as the Rumors salon and day spa. His spring menu, which I'm sure had to be OKd at the corporate level, shows his culinary way of thinking. Nothing tremendously adventurous, but a very seasonal feel.

A few examples:

Tala Dumplings (edamame, white truffle, scallion, porcini broth, $15); Ahi Tuna Nachos (cucumber salsa, kimchi, edamame guacamole, tamari-wasabi, wonton chips, $15); Spring Lamb Bolognese (braised lamb, olives, red peppers, figs, eggplant, feta, $24); Shrimp and Capellini housemade lemon-scented pasta, spring peas, brandy shellfish reduction, shaved piave cheese, $23; and a "Build a Bento" selection from various possibilties.

Tala is located at 626 New Loudon Road (Route 9). Hours: Lunch and dinner service from 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday. Phone: (518) 486-8252.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Update: 1st of 4 new vendors opens at Troy Kitchen

The newest food court tenant
UPDATE (4/15/17): The newest Troy Kitchen vendor, Halal Palace, debuted with a soft opening Friday. A formal grand opening is scheduled for Friday, April 28, during the monthly "Troy Night Out." Among its offerings are various takes on chicken, lamb and falafel in the forms of gyros, salads and platters.

(Originally published 3/27/17)

Owner Cory Nelson has signed leases with four very different new food vendors to replenish his Troy Kitchen food court that has seen several original occupants leave.

As usual, he's letting the information trickle out first via the Times Union, and promises to actually tell the public the names of the vendors once every few weeks beginning sometime next month. You know, building suspense.

The vendors will specialize in halal street food, soul food, Jamaican food, and  chopped cheese sandwiches. The latter is a sort of loose-meat cheesburger sub that for some reason has become so popular in Harlem and the Bronx that, back in November, The New York Times published a feature on it called "The Chopped Cheese’s Sharp Rise to Fame."

The year-old Troy Kitchen, located at 77 Congress Street, is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and brunch on  Sunday.

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