Thursday, June 29, 2017

Chain Links

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

A list of food franchises and how much they cost

Pizza Hut has donated over 100 million pounds of food

DQ's remedy for stressed parents: new Blizzards 

Sonic's Sales are starting to climb back 
  


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E-cig ban in NY restaurants, bars appears inevitable

Customers who like to vape in New York State restaurants and bars may be on the verge of no longer being given special treatment.

The State Senate voted 62-0 on Monday to add electronic cigarettes to the state's Clean Indoor Air Act, which would mean they would be banned just as tobacco products now are forbidden. The bill now moves to the Assembly for consideration.

The Assembly passed a version of the bill earlier this year, but must do so again because the Senate amended some language. Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), the bill’s sponsor, said the Senate’s changes were relatively minor, so Assembly passage seems assured.

If passed, the bill goes to Governor Andrew Cuomo for signature, which also seems assured since he proposed similar e-cigarette restrictions as part of his budget in January.
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Maine restaurant workers win lower minimum wage

Fox News.com
Last November, the Maine State Legislature voted to raise the minimum wage for restaurant servers. Then in mid-June, they voted to lower it back down. And lots of Maine’s restaurant workers were thrilled.

The minimum wage for tipped workers in Maine is half that of the state’s regular minimum wage ($9). It’s called the “tip credit” rule, as it allows employers to take a credit of up to 50%  from their employees’ wages, because servers will generally make that money back (and hopefully more) in tips. If tips and wages, together, don't equal the state's minimum wage, employers are required to make up the difference.

But, at November’s referendum, the Maine House voted to raise the minimum wage by $1 each year (through 2024) and to remove the tip credit rule entirely, meaning that all employees — tipped or not — would be earning the state’s minimum wage, reports the Portland Press Herald. That's when something unexpected happened.

State Senator James Dill, a Democrat who initially voted to raise wages, told the Washington Post that after the Nov. referendum passed, he received “hundreds” of calls and emails from servers who were worried about their livelihood.
 Go here for the full story.
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Epicurean Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 



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Chain Links

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

• Sonic to test 'blended burger'

•  Chipotle stock plunges amid sales concerns

Hackers take aim at quick-service restaurants

Auntie Anne’s launches catering menu

Domino’s changing up bread game with new twists

Pizza Hut has donated over 100 million pounds of food 


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• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook

Openings & Closings & Etc.


• The latest reports on restaurant openings, closings and transitions from the Greater Capital Region, including the Catskills, Southern Vermont and the Berkshires.

CLOSINGS

• The Barrel Saloon & Texas BBQ, which has operated in Albany's Warehouse District for six years, will be gone by the end of July. Owners Chris Pratt and Alessio Depoli have decided to close and sell the operation to concentrate on their downtown Albany businesses -- The Capital Bistro, Pearl Street Pub, Steuben Street Market,and Public House 42. However, the  942 Broadway location will  not go dark. Keep reading.

OPENINGS

• A quartet of local bartenders are purchasing The Barrel Saloon as their first ownership venture. They will close the 942 Broadway, Albany, for several weeks in August as they renovate and retool it as a casual craft beer bar they will call Lost & Found. The team consists of Jesse Snyder of The Lion heart Pub, Bob Poulin, Charlie Lawson, and Bridget McGinley.

• The Queensbury Hotel has opened Park 26, a revamped dining space that is a companion to its longtime Fenimore's pub. Dan Mattocks, formerly of The Chateau on the Lake in Bolton Landing, is the new chef. Hours: breakfast and lunch daily, dinner from 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Phone: (518) 792-1121. The hotel is located at 88 Ridge Street, Glens Falls.


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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

State changes wine-flavored ice cream sales portion size

UPDATE (6/27/17): Wine-infused ice cream is a tiny niche in the food industry, but New York State nevertheless has it within its grasp. The state, never one to miss a chance to regulate somehing no matter how small, had restricted sales of the product to a pint size or larger. However, that now has changed with Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing  a bill that will allow sales of the dessert in “smaller containers.” Keep reading for some context to this momentous piece of legislation that its own sponsors apparently lost track of at one point.

(Originally published 5/25/17)

Headline: Info absent on burning question about wine ice cream

Some time ago, I attempted to get an update on pending legislation involving the serving size of wine ice cream in New York, apparently a matter of the usual governmental nanny state restrictions. I was unable to get any information from the members of both houses of the New York State Legislature supposedly trying to amend the rules. More on that in a bit.

Apparently there are no rigid restrictions on using whiskey in another type of food, if one considers slushies actual food. The Dragonfyre Distillery in Marathon, Cortland County, today announced it will be making and selling whiskey slushies this summer.

"BREAKING NEWS! The slushy machine is here!!! ," trumpeted Dragonfyre's Facebook message. "We will be serving whiskey slushys from now on! What's your preference?
Strawberry Daiquiri
Arnold Palmers
Pina Cola da
Blueberry pomegranate
Prohibition Moon
Apple Moon
Let us know what you want, this is just the "short" list!"

Now, back to the topic of wine ice cream.

Back on March 22, I reported that "The State Senate today approved S4265, a bill introduced by Sen. Joseph Griffo (R-47), to allow a change in the portion size of wine ice cream. The current minimum container size is one pint. Griffo, the deputy senate majority whip, seeks to meet what he says is consumer demand for smaller containers of wine ice cream for weddings, fundraisers, recreational tours, etc. A companion bill that needs to be passed next is being introduced in the Assembly by William Magee (D-121), chairman of the Agriculture Committee. New York is the only state with minimum size requirements."

Since then, I have tried to find out the status of the proposal. A call to Griffo's office was unproductive because the staffer who answered my call had no idea what I was talking about, even though it is his boss's legislation. Even worse at Magee's office, where a promised return phone call has not materialized and an emailed inquiry has been ignored.

Which leads me to suspect that, even though this is a small matter in the larger universe of governance and therefore beneath the legislators' purportedly pushing it, we will see during the next election cycle some reference to this "consumer friendly" effort that both legislators suddenly will remember they have attached their names to.

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Mastrantuono gets top chef job at 15 Church in Saratoga

Michael Mastrantuono
Michael Mastrantuono is headed north for his next gig. The popular young chef, 26, has been named the successor to Brady Duhame at the restaurant 15 Church in Saratoga Springs, effective next Wednesday July 5.

Mastrantuono has been the head chef at Roux in Slingerlands for 14 months after 2½ years in the top role at MezzaNotte Ristorante in Guilderland. His accolades include being listed in the 40-under-40 “Restaurant Stars On the Rise” compilation in the March issue of the trade publication FSR Magazine.

Duhame left 15 Church to become director of culinary operations for Saratoga Hospitality Group. That company's major venue is Max London’s, but includes Mrs. London's Boutique Bakery, the Saratoga Stadium sports bar, and the pub Gaffney’s. He will oversee food at all four businesses.

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Openings & Closings & Etc. (updated)


• The latest reports on restaurant openings, closings and transitions from the Greater Capital Region, including the Catskills, Southern Vermont and the Berkshires.

OPENINGS

Slidin' Dirty, which began as a food truck operation before opening its first bricks-and-mortar restaurant, in Troy, will open its new Schenectady location at 512 State Street on Thursday. Owners Tim and Brooke Taney and local officials will hold a grand opening event at 4 p.m. The 4,000-square-foot space includes a bar, seating for 110 people and an outdoor patio.

a la Mode, a frozen yogurt and specialty waffles shop from Angelo Mazzone's PRIME Business Dining, opened today on  the concourse level of the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

• In a fairly quick turnaround, a Colonie restaurant damaged by a June 10 fire is planning to reopen sometimes this week. Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill, located at 1557 Central Avenue just west of Wolf Road, is awaiting the outcome of final inspections. The restaurant was evacuated during the Saturday night dinner hour 16 days ago, and the fire was quickly contained. Curiously, I can find no updates on the situation on the business's Facebook page or website.

• A blast from the past. A casual breakfast-and-lunch venue called Mike’s Neba has opened at 16 Edison Avenue, Schenectady, in the former longtime location of Vic's Diner. The new venture is owned by the Campana family, who had a Mike’s-Neba franchise in the 1990s and apparently retained the rights to the name and recipes, including the signature hot roast beef sandwich. The original Mike's was started in Albany in 1957 by Mike Davis as Mike’s Submarines, and he later created the Neba Roast Beef Sandwiches brand. Hours: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Phone: (518) 901-0219.

DEVELOPING

• An unusual, for this region, restaurant called Slavonian European Café is being created at 189 Lark Street, Albany. Slavonia is a historic region of Croatia with a wide range of cultural cuisine influences, including Turkish from its days as a state conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Slavonia also is one of Croatia's winemaking areas, so we may wind up seeing some wines not usual offered here.

CLOSING

Bangkok Bistro Thai Restaurant & Martini Bar will close after business this Saturday, July , according to a notice posted on its Facebook page. No reason was given in the statement revealing the decision and thanking everyone for their continued support throughout our four  years in Colonie" at 1619 Central Avenue.


CLOSING, THEN RE-OPENING 

• O'Neill's Shire Pub, a popular restaurant and bar in Delhi, Delaware County,  has been pronounced structurally sound after a fire last week forced it to close. The owners said they plan to re-open after repairs are made. Investigators said the fire was accidental due to  spontaneous combustion of cleaning towels that were recently laundered, according to a media news release that concluded, “The Delhi community businesses and residents came together once again and generously donated food and drinks for all responders.” O'Neill's is located at 123 Main Street in the village. Phone: (607) 746-8758.

CLOSING, THEN PERHAPS OPENING ANEW

•  Hong Yu, who cooked and served dumplings on the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, VT, for 17 years, has made her final appearance there with her her food cart Hong's Chinese Dumplings, reports the arts publication 7 Days. "Yu is planning to open a year-round dumpling shop at 77 Pearl Street, site of the former Radio Deli. The family is trying to raise money to open the business in about five weeks, her daughter Lisa Li said. They need $20,000 to $30,000 for a hood system and permitting, she said."

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Albany firm expands its Plattsburgh Butcher Block

Inside the new Butcher Block Tavern room. (photo provided)
The Butcher Block restaurant in Plattsburgh, which used to have a Colonie sibling until owner White Management Corp. of Albany shuttered it, certainly isn't going away. In fact, it has enlarged and expanded its bar area so much that the space now has its own name.

The new Butcher Block Tavern takes up most of the eastern side of the restaurant that used to be home to a solarium dining area, a feature both Butcher Blocks once shared. The change marks the end of a 42-year-old design.

Curiously, when White Management closed its 28-year-old Butcher Block in Colonie in 2010 to retool and reopen it as Central Steak, one of the main changes was elimination of the solarium dining room. Less than two years later, it went out of business.

The Plattsburgh changes were made to target millenials and older college students and their adult visitora at SUNY Plattsburgh, as well as people coming to town to take advantage of numerous activities connected with the Lake Champlain waterfront.  

The renovated section has a bar featuring regular, tall and low-rise tables, the latter paired with with lounge-style chairs. It also has three mixology stations to allow multiple bartenders to maneuver, and has added eight new taps, for a total of 20, with 12 reserved for craft beers. New hanging light fixtures augment the window wall of the solarium. A tavern menu has been created for the new space.

The original bar, which was built by owner David White's father, Frank White, now hangs above the bar area with the words "A Chip Off the Old" carved in it. The Butcher Block, located just off I-87 at 15 Booth Drive, was opened in  1975.

White Management, which closed a spate of restaurants several years ago, today also owns the Log Jam in Lake George, Mangia in Slingerlands, and Bountiful Bread in Guilderland,

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Update: Old Daley progressing on new Schenectady venue

Elliott Vogel
UPDATE 6/26/17):  The owners of the in-development Schenectady restaurant Daley on Yates have targeted a mid-August soft opening to be followed by a mid-September official debut. The $1.2 million venture will include a 3,000-square-foot-patio complete with fire pits. Inside, elements of the 19th Century building's history as a taxi garage and auto parts store will be preserved in the brick and wood decor. The business's request for permission to install a 34-by-60-inch sign that would hang over the city right-of-way on Yates Street is on the City Council's agenda for tonight. Yates is a short block connecting Union and Liberty streets.

(Originally published 5/2/17)

Headline: Old Daley getting back into fulltime restaurant sector

The people behind the Old Daley Custom Catering operation recently completed an exterior facelift of their Troy facility. But, that isn't the big news for the company. It is going back into the fulltime restaurant business.

Old Daley, headquartered in Troy's Lansingburgh section  and operator of the former Crooked Lake House in rural Averill Park that it uses as an events venue and as a restaurant in the winter months, is developing a new venture. Says co-owner Marty Keary:

"Great news. We're opening a new restaurant in Schenectady. It's opening in June/July. It's called Daley's on Yates, located at 10-12 Yates Street only a few minutes' walking distance to Proctor's theater and area nightlife. "

This is the third project announced for the same site in two years. In February 2015, it was announced that the city's first wine bar would be developed there. That did not happen. Then, in August that same year, Albany Distilling Company announced it would locate additional distilling facilities and a restaurant on the site. That, too, came to naught. 

Old Daley's Keary describes renovations to the former taxi garage as turning it into "a swanky space with great lighting, mid-century modern vibe and a phenomenal bar. There's big garage doors that open to a huge private, tree-lined patio with its own outside bar, dining and lounge areas with fire pits. You're gonna be blown away."

The chef is Elliott Vogel, a 2017 Rising Star Chef as part of the Albany Chefs' Food & Wine Festival. He has cooked at Normanside 165 in Delmar, Tala Bistro in Latham, and -- not coincidental to getting the new gig -- Old Daley On Crooked Lake. Vogel studied nursing at Maria College before changing gears to study at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.

Old Daley Custom Catering is a descendant of the former Old Daley Inn, a restaurant that operated for decades in Lansingburgh, then transitioned to a fulltime catering business, then reentered the restaurant sector to some degree at Crooked Lake in 2010 along with its catering work.

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Sunhee's among food projects on Troy Planning agenda

The Troy Restaurant Sunhee's Farm & Kitchen is planning to expand by adding outdoor seating behind its 95-97 Ferry Street venue.

The plan, submitted by Jinah Kim, is on the agenda for Wednesday's 6 p.m. meeting of the City Planning Commission to be held at City Hall, Hedley Building, River Street.

It is one of three food-related plans on the agenda. The others:

• A proposal from Jeff Jackson of Galway to occupy a vacant commercial building at 443 Fifth Avenue with a sports- themed restaurant. The building had at one time been home to Bad Ass  Burrito.

• A proposal from Hussein Logman of Troy to occupy a vacant commercial building at 3001 Sixrh Avenue with a grocery store.The venue formerly was the home of Catholic Charities of Rensselaer.
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Food & Wine gets new editor and new southern headquarters

The current issue
The center of Food & Wine magazine's focus is shifting, big time. The Time Inc. publication has announced a new editor barely a year after hiring one, and it is moving much of its  operations south -- waaay down south.

Food & Wine is moving to Birmingham, AL, to join several other Time Inc. publications such as Cooking Light and Southern Living. And, speaking of Cooking Light, its editor, Hunter Lewis, will become Food & Wine’s editor in chief, replacing Nilou Motamed who is leaving the post and the company. Motamed had taken over from Dana Cowin, who had edited the magazine for more than 20 years.

Food & Wine will be resident in a multimillion-dollar complex that houses 28 test kitchens and 13 photography bays and video studios. It was built in 2015. Food & Wine's test kitchen and photo studios in lower Manhattan will remain there, as will its digital team.
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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Warren-Washington beverage trail awaits Cuomo's OK

If Governor Andrew Cuomo approves, as expected, a bill that passed both house of the State Leguislature before recess, a regional craft beverage and winemaking trail for Warren and Washington counties would be designarrated under a state Department of Transportation (DOT) program.

The Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce worked with State Sen. Elizabeth Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) on the  bill that each introduced in their respective chambers. 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 was 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.
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Friday, June 23, 2017

Morrisville State's brewery partner open for business

From the Oneida Dispatch
MORRISVILLE -- Morrisville State College partner Good Nature Farm Brewery is officially open for business.

Good Nature, a homegrown and family-owned craft brewery and tap room founded in 2010, has partnered with the college through the START-UP NY program, which creates tax-free areas associated with colleges and universities across the state in order to spur economic growth.

The partnership aligns with Morrisville State College’s implementation of a new food technology four-year degree program featuring three concentrations: brewing science and technology, agricultural marketing and food science. The curriculum will include 10 brewing courses, which will educate students on first-hand practical business experience with a large-scale production brewery. 
... The Morrisville State College Brewing Institute, located at the Copper Turret Restaurant and Brewhouse, will serve as a laboratory for students in the new program. ...
Go here for the full story.

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Openings & Closings & Etc.


CLOSINGS

• The Flying Chicken has announced it will celebrate its fifth anniversary at 122 4th Street in Troy in a unique way. By going out of business. Owner Ian Michael Hunter says the operation has not shown long-term financial viability. He said he may retool and reopen elsewhere, but his Facebook posting doesn't sound like it. It says, in part, " ... hold off on the tears and come help us put the fun in funeral!"

CLOSINGS ... TEMPORARY

• The Social House sports bar inside Via Entertainment in the ViaPort Rotterdam (formerly Rotterdam Square Mall) shopping complex is temporarily closed. Via Entertainment announced Thursday on its Facebook page hat the Social House "will be CLOSED for renovation" and will resume in August "with a fresh new look, brand new menu and more!" The 4,000-square foot facility opened last year as a joint venture between Chris Marotta of Marotta's Pizza in Albany and Will Phan of LAX Restaurant & Lounge in Albany.

CLOSING ...OOPS, REOPENING

• Farmstead Flatbread, located in the former Sutton's Marketplace at 1066 Route 9, Queensbury, was briefly closed Thursday by the state Department of Taxation & Finance because of what it says was an unpaid $62,405 unpaid tax bill. However, roughly an hour later it reopened despite having been papered with the state state's familiar orange "seized" posters which were taken down by mid-afternoon. A check with the business today confirmed it remains open for lunch and dinner service from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Phone: (518)741-6911.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chain Links

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

McDonald’s focuses on supply chain improvement

KFC's Zinger is taking flight Thursday

Moe’s invading grocery stores with Frozen Breakfast Bowls

Millennials killing chains like Buffalo Wild Wings, Applebee's

Cinnabon launches new Chillattas for summer 

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Epicurean Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 



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Brunelle gets top chef post at Gideon Putnam Hotel

Luca Brunelle
The much-traveled Derek "Luca" Brunelle has been named executive chef at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs.

Brunelle has a broad range of local kitchens on his resume, most prominent among them including Brown's Brewing in Troy , Nicole's and Jack's Oyster House in Albany, Reel Seafood Company in Colonie, and Cornells in Schenectady.

Brunelle is a native of Colonie who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America after studying finance at the University at Albany. It was at UAlbany, during a "Godfather" phase he and some campus buddies went through, that he picked up the nickname "Luca" from the Luca Brasi character.

The Gideon Putnam Hotel is owned by the state and operated by Delaware North Cos. Parks & Resorts of Buffalo. It offers dining option in Putnam 's Restaurant and Bar and on Putnam's Patio. It is located at 24 Gideon Putnam Road in the Saratoga Spa State Park. Phone: (866) 890-1171.
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Ground Round expanding, but not back to the Capital Region

Ground Round Grill & Bar, which once had a strong presence with multiple locations in the Capital Region before shrinking into a tight cluster of New England venues, is on an expansion kick. However, it is far from its home base.

When the company opened a location in Rutland, VT, in May in a former Ponderosa Steakhouse, it said it also had other places in mind. The company, headquartered in Freeport, ME, has just announced it will open four new locations in two more states -- three in South Dakota and one in Ohio.

The new venues will be a combination of converted restaurants and brand-new facilities using a prototype just developed by the company.

At one time, Ground Round, which was founded by Howard Johnson's in 1969 as a line of family restaurants, had locations in Schenectady, Albany, Guilderland and elsewhere. In February 2004, the franchisor for Ground Round filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and in the process, all 59 corporate-owned restaurants -- nearly half of the restaurants then open -- abruptly closed their doors. The company  since has undergone major financial and business model restructuring.

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Bill would make NYS beverage tastings fully sales-tax-exempt

A bill passed by both houses of the State Legislature has been sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo to give licensed breweries, distilleries, and cideries the same sales tax exemption for tastings that wineries now have.

The bill would allow the exemption even if vendors he state Senate and Assembly have passed a bill charge for the tasting. Under current law, any wine, beer, cider, or liquor tasting that is provided free of charge is exempt from having to impose the state sales and use tax. However, wineries are granted a sales tax exemption even if they charge for the tasting.

“As the number of breweries and distilleries increases across New York, including many farm-based operations, we must ensure that we provide a level playing field for those in the industry,” said Erie County Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, (R-C-I). “Right now, these businesses don’t enjoy the same sales tax benefits provided to wineries. That’s not fair to them or their customers.”

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Food and drink aplenty on Saratoga Race Course schedule

Eating and drinking often are part of having fun, and the calendar of 40 special  events released today for the upcoming thoroughbred racing season at the Saratoga Race Course proves that once again.

The event schedule from The New York Racing Association Inc. is loaded with food- and drink-centric events, the majority of them to take place in the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion.

The schedule includes the expansion of the Taste NY series to four days. The on-track market of New York food, fashion and artisan vendors, previously held exclusively on Sundays, is being expanded to Saturdays. The full schedule (florid descriptions courtesy of the NYRA):

OPENING DAY: Friday, July 21: The 2017 annual summer meet will kick-off with the Grade III Schuylerville and Grade III Lake George.

TASTE NY: CRAFT BEER: Every Friday beginning July 21: Taste NY: Craft Beer will allow track patrons the opportunity to sample numerous craft beers produced exclusively by New York State breweries. The tasting will be held each Friday from noon to 5 p.m. in the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion. Guests will enjoy five samples for $5. Must be 21 years or older to participate.

WOODFORD RESERVE FRIDAYS AT THE POST: Every Friday beginning July 21: Racing fans will be invited to continue their day at Saratoga with Woodford Reserve Fridays at The Post, the lively bar and entertainment spot located adjacent to the paddock. Each Friday of the meet will feature a DJ and dancing, cocktail samplings and trivia at The Post following the day's final race.

TASTE NY: FOOD & ARTISANS: Every Saturday beginning July 22: An on-track market of numerous food and artisan vendors featuring products made exclusively in New York State. The market will be held each Saturdayfrom 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion. Guests will also have the opportunity to learn about NYRA Bets and the all-new NYRA XP mobile app.

KETEL ONE PARTY AT THE POST: Every Saturday beginning July 22: The fun will continue each Saturday of the season with the Ketel One Party at The Post. Saturday evenings at Saratoga will feature music from a DJ following the day's final race, cocktail samplings and giveaways.

26TH ANNUAL HAT CONTEST PRESENTED BY HAT SATIONA! BY DEI: Sunday, July 23: The "crowning" achievement of opening weekend, visitors will go head-to-head for prizes in the annual Hat Contest. Categories will include one designated for children, one for the most fashionable millinery and one for the most creative headwear. The contests will take place after the second, third and fourth races of the afternoon. Prizes are provided by Hat sationa! by DEI.

TASTE NY: FOOD & ARTISANS: Every Sunday beginning July 23: Taste NY: Food & Artisans is a lively on-track market of numerous food and artisan vendors featuring products made exclusively in New York State. The market will be held each Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion. Guests will also have the opportunity to learn about NYRA Bets and the all-new NYRA XP mobile app.

BERKSHIRE BANK FAMILY MONDAYS: Every Monday beginning July 24: The Berkshire Bank Family Mondays series will feature a wide variety of family-friendly activities, games, attractions and educational activities each Monday of the meet from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion.

CELEBRATE MILITARY APPRECIATION DAY: Wednesday, July 26: Saratoga Race Course will pay tribute to active military members and veterans in appreciation of their sacrifice and service to our nation. The Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion will feature exhibits and activities throughout the day.All veterans and active duty military will receive free Grandstand admission with military ID.

TASTE NY: CIDER, WINE & SPIRITS: Every Thursday beginning July 27: Taste NY: Cider, Wine & Spirits will allow guests the opportunity to sample varietals of cider, wine and spirits from numerous New York State distilleries and wineries. Live music will accompany the tasting each Thursday of the meet from noon to 5 p.m. in the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion. Guests will enjoy five samples for $5. Must be 21 years or older to participate.

TEQUILA & TACO THURSDAYS: Every Thursday beginning July 27: Each Thursday of the season, guests will enjoy specials on margaritas and tacos at The Post, as well as live flamenco guitar performances following the day's final race.

COLLEGE & ALUMNI DAY: Friday, July 28: This year's College & Alumni Day will feature the first-ever College & Alumni Handicapping Tournament at the Spa. College students and alumni will be invited to test their handicapping skills in a live money tournament for the opportunity to win up to a $5,000 scholarship for their alma mater from the New York Racing Association. Advance registration is required to participate in the tournament. Special group rates are available. To register your group of 10 or more, email rvsvp@nyrainc.com. Registration deadline is July 21.

PERMANENTLY DISABLED JOCKEYS' FUND AWARENESS DAY: Saturday, July 29: Saratoga Race Course will unite with racetracks across the country on Saturday with autograph signings and photo opportunities as part of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund (PDJF) Day Across America.

CELEBRATE IRISH-AMERICAN DAY: Wednesday, August 2: Saratoga will bring racing fans extra luck during Irish-American Day. The day-long celebration of culture and heritage will feature traditional Irish music, dance, food and entertainment at the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHITNEY DAY AND THE FASIG-TIPTON FESTIVAL OF RACING: Saturday, August 5: The Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney, a "Win and You're In" qualifier for the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic, will pair with the Grade 1, $500,000 Test for 3-year-old fillies, and the Grade 3, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya for turf fillies and mares on the first "must-see" card of the meet. Also on Saturday are two additional turf stakes: the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure and the $100,000 Fasig-Tipton De La Rose for fillies and mares.

JOCKEY LEGENDS DAY: Sunday, August 6: Some of the greatest riders in the history of thoroughbred racing will gather at Saratoga Race Course for the fourth annual Jockey Legends Day. The day's activities will feature special appearances by some of the Spa's most accomplished riders and autograph signings.

SARATOGA CHALLENGES: Wednesday, August 9 & Thursday, August 10: The pair of live money challenges will occur as two separate one-day contests and will guarantee a minimum first place payout of $10,000, as well as awarding entries to the 2018 Belmont Stakes Challenge (1) and the National Handicapping Championship (2) to the top three finishers, based on selection by order of finish. Both challenges will consist of wagering exclusively on Saratoga races through the following pools only: Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Quinella, and Trifecta. The entry fee into either challenge is $1,000, with a maximum number of entries at two per day, per person. For more information about the Saratoga Challenges, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/saratoga-challenge.

CELEBRATE BREW CENTRAL NY DAY: Wednesday, August 9: The day-long event in the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion will feature activities, exhibits and entertainment which showcase the renaissance of craft beer, hard cider, spirits and wine in Central New York and celebrate the region's history as a prominent hops producer. Guests will enjoy five samples for $5. Must be 21 years or older to participate.

FABULOUS FILLIES DAY: Thursday, August 10: Saratoga Race Course will celebrate women and their contributions to the thoroughbred industry while raising funds to support The Breast Cancer Research Foundation on Fabulous Fillies Day. The centerpiece of the day will be the Sizzling Hot Pink Saratoga Hat Luncheon, presented by Vineyard Vines, beginning with an elegant champagne reception hosted by Moet & Chandon, and featuring gifts provided by Spa Mirbeau. This year's luncheon will honor Sheila Rosenblum of Lady Sheila Stable.

CELEBRATE ADIRONDACKS DAY: Wednesday, August 16: Saratoga Race Course will highlight the majestic Adirondacks region, including the home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid. The day-long event at the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion will feature activities, exhibits and entertainment which showcase the great attractions of the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

LUSTGARTEN FOUNDATION DAY: Saturday, August 19: Saratoga will honor the legacy of trainer Dominic Galluscio with a day to benefit The Lustgarten Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance scientific and medical research related to pancreatic cancer. The day will feature an autograph session with various Saratoga trainers.

CELEBRATE FIRST RESPONDERS APPRECIATION DAY: Wednesday, August 23: Saratoga Race Course will honor police officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics during First Responders Appreciation Day. The Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion will feature exhibits and activities throughout the day. All first responders will receive free Grandstand admission with proper ID.

STEWART'S ICE CREAM EATING CONTEST: Wednesday, August 23: Racing fans will compete in the ultimate in chilly contests at the annual Stewart's Ice Cream Eating Contest. Contestants will be divided into three age groups - kids, teens and adults - as they battle to see who can eat a pint of ice cream the fastest. Saratoga season passes are currently on sale at nearly 160 Stewart's Shops locations.

NEW YORK SHOWCASE DAY: Friday, August 25: Travers weekend will kick off with New York Showcase Day, featuring six stakes races exclusively for New York-breds, including the $250,000 Albany for 3-year-olds and the $150,000 West Point, presented by Trustco Bank, on the turf.

TRAVERS DAY: Saturday, August 26: The 148th running of the $1.25 million Travers will be the centerpiece of a supercharged Travers Day. Joining the Mid-Summer Derby for 3-year-olds will be five other Grade 1 stakes: the $1 million Sword Dancer Invitational at 1 ½ miles on the turf, the $500,000 Ballerina for filly and mare sprinters, the $600,000 Forego at seven furlongs, the $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial, formerly known as the King's Bishop, for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, and the $700,000 Personal Ensign for fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles. Rounding out the blockbuster card is the Grade 2, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa for turf fillies and mares.

CELEBRATE ITALIAN-AMERICAN DAY: Wednesday, August 30: The charm and spirit of Italy will come trackside when Saratoga Race Course hosts Italian-American Day. The day-long celebration of Italian culture and heritage will feature traditional Italian music, dance, food, entertainment and games at the Berkshire Bank Saratoga Pavilion from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

FAN APPRECIATION WEEK: Wednesday, August 30-Monday, September 4: The New York Racing Association will thank its most loyal fans, season pass and season ticket holders, with an exclusive series of special events, activities and offers during closing week of the 2017 season at Saratoga Race Course.

CLOSING DAY: Monday, September 4: The 2017 meet will come to a close with the traditional final feature race, the 113th running of the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful for 2-year-olds, which affords racing fans a preview of potential standouts in next year's Triple Crown series and Travers.
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Neighbors file suit to block golf course brew pub project

From The Saratogian
HALFMOON -- Two couples living near the Fairways of Halfmoon golf course have taken legal action to prevent the course from adding a brew pub.

 Joseph and Donna Micklas and James and Maria Hopeck filed the lawsuit ...against the Halfmoon Planning Board and the Fairways of Halfmoon LLC, 17 Johnson Road, in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County.

The Micklases live on Raylinsky Lane and the Hopecks live across from the golf course on Johnson Road. The golf course is owned by developer Bruce Tanski though he was not listed in the legal action.

The two couples seek to annul the Planning Board’s approval May 8 of the plans for a 1,967-square-foot addition for the brew pub and its accompanying special use permit. The legal action comes 10 weeks after a public hearing was held on the project at which both Joseph Micklas and James Hopeck spoke. Both men expressed displeasure with the plan, saying it would put a commercial business in an A-R (agricultural-residential) zone. Micklas pointedly questioned whether this particular business at this location fit the town code requirements for special use permit consideration. After minor revisions to the plan, the application was approved with a 6-1 board vote on May 8. The lone vote against the approval was board member John Higgins.
Go here for the full story.

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Spa veteran Farber partnering in duo-level kitchen and bar

It's as predictable as the coming of summer. Local restaurant scene veterans opening a new enterprise just in time for the annual Saratoga Springs thoroughbred racing season that can be a make-or-break time for a new venture.

Ron Farber and Ralph Balsamo have announced on Facebook a new spot in a familiar dining place. Their R&R Kitchen + Bar is being developed for an early-July opening at 43 Phila that for more than a decade was home to the bistro 43 Phila then for a short time the Seven Horse Pub.

They are describing their plans as offering casual dining downstairs in the R&R Kitchen and Bar and more intimate dining upstairs in a space called Ronnie & Ralphie’s.
 
Farber was chef-owner of the now-defunct Saratoga restaurants 8 Tables and 28 Tables as well as several other efforts before going to work with Mazzone Hospitality at its Fish at 30 Lake in Saratoga. Balsamo has been a waiter at Mazzone's Angelo’s 677 Prime in Albany, the independent 15 Church in Saratoga, and his family’s Villa Balsamo in Saratoga.
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Chef vacancy quickly filled at The Capital Bistro

Gabe Pollow
In one of those quick-hit personnel moves that take at least the public by surprise, The Capital Bistro in Albany was left without an executive chef even though it had just hired one several months ago.

Matt Hughes quit last week, co-owner Chris Pratt tells the Times Union, so he has elevated Gabe Pollow, No. 2 since March, to the role. Both chefs are alums of Ric Orlando's New World Bistro Bar in Albany, and under their brief tandem tenure The Capital Bistro earned a good review from the TU.

Pollow moved from the New World Bistro Bar to its catering service before leaving to briefly, as it turned out, become head chef at Fin - Your Fishmonger in Guilderland in 2015.

The restaurant, originally named The Capital American Eatery & Lounge, is located at 55 North Pearl Street. Hours: Open for dinner from 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Phone: (518) 694-3122.
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Newest Market 32 opening in Saratoga Springs next week

The newest Market 32 by Price Chopper is scheduled to open next Tuesday in Saratoga Springs.

The store, located at the intersection of Routes 146 and 146A, is twice the size of the Price Chopper that was demolished to make way for it. It is the first Market 32, as Price Choppers are being rebranded, locally to be built from scratch. Other Price Choppers have been created, converted or are now being converted, with nine in operation in New York and two each in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The opening of the 54,000-square-foot store will be marked by a ribbon-cutting ceremony organized by the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County. The store features a more open concept, dine-in options, wifi service, a vastly increased number of grocery items, and specialty departments.
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chain Links

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

McDonald’s focuses on supply chain improvement

Cinnabon launches new Chillattas for summer

Sonic's pretzel dogs are back for a limited time 

Burger King introduces Lucky Charms shakes for summer

Starbucks unveils few frappuccinos for summer  
 
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Prototype McDonald's opening Wednesday in Saratoga

New digital ordering kisok
A fast-food model that will become commonplace nationally in about three years will debut in Saratoga Springs on Wednesday.

A just-completed McDonald's, constructed on the site of an older version of the chain link at 3003 Route 50, will offer digital kiosk ordering, table service, a fresh modern decor, a revamped children's play space, and a double-drive thru. The new venue will mark the debut of the prototpye in the Capital Region.

The restaurant, owned by franchise holder Joe Gialil, is scheduled to open at 6 a.m., followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony and grand reopening celebration at 10.
 
Among the new menu options will be McDonald’s Signature Crafted recipes that allow customers to craft their sandwiches by selecting 100 % beef or grilled or crispy chicken, picking an artisan roll or sesame seed bun, and choosing from one of the three new signature recipes – maple bacon Dijon, pico guacamole, or sweet BBQ bacon.

After purchase at the kiosk, guests’ orders are delivered to tables in the new interior that feature flat panel TV sets and free WiFi. But, for those preferring the time-honored ordering process and counter pickup, they will remain.
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Chef Duhame moves to Saratoga corporate position

Brady Duhame
When it was revealed last week that Brady Duhame was gone as chef of the restaurant 15 Church in Saratoga Springs, all the usual buzz began. Leaving town? Starting his own place? Etc.

Well, actually none of those. Duhame is staying in town as director of culinary operations for Saratoga Hospitality Group. The company's major venue is Max London’s, but includes Mrs. London's Boutique Bakery, the Saratoga Stadium sports bar, and the pub Gaffney’s. He will oversee food at all four businesses.

The company is owned by Ryan Venezia and Justin Manfro. Both Saratoga Stadium and Gaffney’s were 2017 acquisitions.

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Chez Nous finds a successor chef in its own backyard

Fabrice Vittoz
Fabrice Vittoz has been named to the top kitchen job at the French country restaurant Chez Nous in Schenectady.

Vittoz, a native of the western French region of Brittany, is thus no stranger to the cuisine. And, he's no stranger to the local scene either, having served as the startup chef at the city's Doubletree Hotel on  Nott Terrace. His resume also includes kitchens in the Catskills and in New York City.

Vittoz succeeds Dominic Colose, who left the position last month in favor of expanding his Yawning Duck catering service.

Chez Nous is located at 707 Union Street. Hours:5m to 9mp.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Phone: (518) 344-6393.

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Update: World of Beer may resurface at Crossgates Mall

UPDATE (6/0/17): If the corporate website isn't just a tease, the World of Beer chain appears to be returning to Crossgates Mall in Guilderland. The "locations" website page says "REOPENING SOON!" on what it calls its "Albany" location.

(Originally published 7/23/16)

Headline: Crossgates closing only latest for World of Beer

Any time a pub or restaurant quietly closes and doesn't announce plans for a renovation, reopening, or anything else, that is not a good sign.

So, one must assume World of Beer, the chain tavern in Guilderland's Crossgates Mall, is gone from this market. As evidence, the doors are locked, the phone doesn't work, the website, Facebook page, and Twitter account haven't been updated in months.

When Times Union food blogger Steve Barnes tried to find out what is going on, he was stonewalled, saying, "An employee at the mall’s information desk told me the closure was sudden and they have been instructed to say that World of Beer is 'closed temporarily.' A World of Beer staffer who emailed me wrote, 'We can’t get an answer as to when or even if it will reopen'.”

WOB, which leans heavily on its 500-beer selection and live musical performances in its marketing, has opened more than 70 locations in 20 states since its first spot debuted in Tampa, FL, in 2007. The Crossgates location opened its doors in June 2014. However, its closure shouldn't be a shock. My research reveals that in the past 18 months or so, abrupt closings of WOB locations have taken place in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood; in St. Petersburg, Land O Lakes, and Jacksonville Beach, FL; in Austin and Dallas, TX; in Columbus and the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, OH; in Milwaukee; in the Seattle suburb of Renton; in Denver, and in Ann Arbor, MI. And, that's what I found in less than 10 minutes of searching.

Most of the shuttered spots had been open only about two years on average. As recently as six months ago, CEO Paul Avery didn't say anything about closing any locations when he bragged in an interview with the industry website Brewbound:

"2015 was an excellent year of growth for World of Beer, as we have not only met but exceeded our goal of robust growth and in adding quality franchise partners. ... Last year’s success has set us up for another promising year, and we look forward to expanding the World of Beer brand to new markets nationwide and overseas in markets such as China, India and the Philippines.”
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Cuomo unveils new 'Excelsior Cup' craft beer competition

That didn't take long. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a strong and continually-pushing cheerleader for New York State's craft adult beverage industry, cooked up a Taste NY Craft Beer Challenge  in May. It involved five breweries' products in a taste-off involving a celebrity judging panel. That, it seems, was just the start of his competitive juices.

On Monday, Cuomo's office announced that this year's New York State Fair will host its first professionally judged contest for commercial beers -- the New York State Craft Beer Competition, with the top brew earning the Governor's Excelsior Cup. The statement said the aim is to promote the state's fast-growing beer industry in New York, which now has more than 340 breweries, the most since before Prohibition.

The commercial beer contest will be new to the Fair, which already hosts a homebrew competition as well as commercial and amateur wine contests. It will award gold, silver and bronze medals to the beers judged best in 20 categories, Cuomo said. Categories will include standards pale ale and lager along with a variety of and niche styles.

Judging will take place July 29 in Rochester, coordinated by the New York State Craft Brewers Association. It is open to any craft brewer located in the state. Brewers may enter more than one variety of beer. Each entry is $45. Details and entry instructions are available online.

The Excelsior Cup winner and other medal winners will be displayed in the Horticulture Building at the Fair, which this year will run  from August 23 to September 4. There  also will be a sampling booth and daily Taste NY wine and beer seminars.
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Update: Cuomo's alcohol-at-the-movies bid appears to be DOA



Beer and wine are sold in this California theater where clip-on trays also holds food items.
UPDATE 3 (6/20/17): State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters Monday he opposes on safety grounds Gov. Andrew Cuomo's idea of expanding alcohol sales in movie theaters. That statement effectively scuttles Cuomo's pitch, first made in January, since no piece of legislation can make it to the floor for a vote without the endorsement of the speaker.

UPDATE 2 (4/12/17): Governor Andrew Cuomo's push to allow all movie houses in the state to sell alcoholic drinks failed to get enough support in the Legislature to become reality. Neither the Republican-led Senate nor the Democrat-led Assembly included it in their budget proposals, and the final budget passed over the weekend did not include any provisions for the measure. Current state law prevents movie theaters from selling such beverages unless the venue also serves restaurant-style food and has tables to go with every seat.

UPDATE (1/20/17): In one of his budget speeches this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would propose granting approval for movie theaters to serve wine and beer, as well as incentives to encourage them to be sure those are New York State products. The catch -- and isn't there always a catch with government? -- is that Cuomo's actual paperwork reveals that such service would NOT be restricted to wine and beer, and there is no provision for incentives for using state products.

(Originally published 1/18/17)

In New York State you can sip a beer or a glass of wine while watching a standup comic perform live, listen to a lounge singer-pianist or a jazz quintet, or even stroll through a gallery to see an art collection or hear a speaker. If alcohol-friendly Governor Andrew Cuomo has his way, you'll be able to enjoy the same beverages while taking in a movie.

There is a small handful of movie houses in the state allowed to sell such beverages now, a result of a succesful 2011 lawsuit filed by Nitehawk Cinemas seeking such a privilege, but they must have table seating and offer a full restaurant menu. Hardly the same as sitting in your neighborhood moviehouse and sloching back into a comfy overstuffed seat while you take in the latest version of the "Hunger Games" franchise, and hardly a sufficient-sized venue to handle crowds for first-run films.

During his budget address delivered publicly on Tuesday, Cuomo said that in addition to dozens of revenue and regulation recommendations, "We also had a proposal that would allow alcohol and beer to be sold in movie theaters. And, it would be joined with an incentive program, to incentivize the movie theaters to sell New York wine and beer."

If successful, the proposal would be just another step in a long series of moves by the governor to aid the state's wine/spirits/brewing industry by simplifying regulations, expanding tax credits, creating promotional programs, and speeding up licensing.

“It is a very big industry for us," Cuomo said. "We have developed it, it’s going gangbusters, anything we can do to encourage it. It’s especially successful in Upstate New York."

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New Finger Lakes casino debuting signature IPA

New signature IPA (photo provided)
The del Lago Resort & Casino hasn't even fully opened yet, but it already has its own signature craft beer.

The Seneca County facility has teamed up with CB Craft Brewers of nearby Honeoye Falls, south of Rochester, to create del Lago Summer IPA that will debut this week at the casino. The gaming portion of the complex opened in February near Waterloo off Thruway Exit 41. Its 225-room hotel and spa are scheduled to open on Friday, July 1, several weeks ahead of schedule.

CB Craft Brewers, which this year is celebrating its 20th anniversary, already had been producing house beers for bars, restaurants and other venues that do not have their own brewing equipment. The new IPA (India Pale Ale) will be served on tap starting at 6 p.m. Thursday in The Vine, the casino's entertainment venue.

"The vision for del Lago Resort & Casino has always been to embrace and promote all that the region has to offer, including local breweries, wineries, businesses and tourist destinations," general manager Jeff Babinski said in a statement.

Del Lago is one of the three full-service, non-Indian casinos that have opened in Upstate in the past seven months, including joining the Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady and Tioga Downs in Nichols, west of Binghamton. The $440 million facility has 1,980 slot machines and 99 gaming tables.
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2 different food pop-ups at Nine Pin Cider Works this week

Nine Pin Cider Works of Albany will be pulling in some out-of-town talent this week to offer a pair of pop-up events.

A team from the Saratoga Springs restaurant Ravenous will move in on Wednesday afternoon to set up a crêpe station in the tasting room. Then, on Friday, Guilderland's Fin - Your Fishmonger will visit to offer a lobster roll, a crab cake, a sweet potato salmon burger, a mahi mahi fish taco, and a Korean BBQ salmon taco on the menu.

The host cidery will have a variety of its beverages to pair with the foods, including its summer Peach Tea Cider, made from a blend of apples from Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook. It is a cold-infused brew with a custom peach tea blend from Short and Stout.

Nine Pin Cider Works is located at 929 Broadway in Albany. 
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Monday, June 19, 2017

At Cornell, big, fat new Concord grape seeking a name

A new breed in search of a name. (Cornell photo)
• From the Cornell Chronicle


Big on flavor, aroma and size, Cornell University’s newest grape lacks one defining feature: a name.

Grape breeder Bruce Reisch spent years developing the grape, and now he’s offering the public the chance to name it. Currently dubbed NY98.0228.02, the grape is a seedless, flavorful berry with the attractive blue coloring of a Concord at nearly double the size. Reisch, professor of grapevine breeding and genetics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said the new variety is well adapted to the Northeast, with good cold-tolerance for most of the Eastern states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey.

“This grape is the first truly seedless Concord-type and has naturally large, attractive berries,” said Reisch. The Concord has long been an American favorite, known best for its use in grape juice, jellies and jams. “Our new grapes weigh 5 or 6 grams per berry, almost twice the weight of a traditional Concord,” said Reisch. “It’s pretty rare to find a grape that size, especially with such full flavor.”

Reisch hopes the contest will inspire a name as inviting as the grape. Submissions can be made online until July 31. Reisch and his collaborators at Double A Vineyards will decide on their favorites, then present the choices to the public for a final vote in September.

Go here for the full story.
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