Saturday, November 4, 2017

Taking a break

This blog has lots of visitors, but rarely receives any comments from them. I suspect the reason for the latter is caused by several factors:

1. I don't post "click bait" items meant only to elicit comments.

2. I don't allow snarky and/or personal attacks on others.

3. My readers are the sort who read for information rather than looking for a place to sound off behind a veil of anonymity.

But, there comes a time when other things beckon for my attention, so I'll be taking a break from writing Notes On Napkins for a while -- or until I get a groundswell of reader requests for more of my brand of reportage.

Thanks for reading me.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cooperstown Cheese Co. ramps up inspections after listeria

From the Oneonta Star
An Otsego County company is promising more-stringent testing after a batch of locally sourced milk led to a positive test for listeria in several of its cheese products and a voluntary recall earlier this month.

According to Sharon Tomaselli, co-owner of the Cooperstown Cheese Company on Route 28 in Milford, the listeria has been traced to a bad batch of milk from a local farm. She said the farm was a temporary provider of milk to her company because of statewide shortages, and business with that farm had already stopped before the outbreak.

Tomaselli said most of the milk her company uses is tested, but now it will shift to testing every batch."With this farm, we tested seven out of 10 batches," she said. "Now we are going to go to 100% testing."

A Cooperstown Cheese Company post on Facebook last week said the company was "mortified" by the recall and would work hard to regain the trust of its customers.

'Free Sushi Day' Thursday at P.F. Chang's venues

Making a California roll
Interested in a piece of sushi? How about a piece of free sushi?

You can get some by visiting the P.F. Chang's restaurant in Colonie Center or any of 200 other chain locations on Thursday. That's "Free Sushi Day," a one-day-only event for dine-in guests.

A free spicy tuna roll or California roll will be available for the asking at lunch, happy hour, and dinner with no purchase necessary.

P.F. Chang’s sushi is hand rolled to order and made with rice grown exclusively in the U.S.

Limitations: While the offer will be valid all day Thursday, it will not be available for catering and to-go orders. Limited to one free roll per guest, but not limited to a maximum per table, so if not everyone in your party likes sushi there is no prohibition on everyone ordering a freebie nevertheless. It cannot be combined with any other offer.

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 plans to pump up the value in 2018

Yum Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut) in aggressive growth mode  

Dickey's Barbecue Pit celebrates Halloween with 'Kids Eat Free' promotion

Auntie Anne’s turns up heat with sriracha pretzels

Blaze Pizza: 'Momentum in every aspect of our business' 

Smashburger chain making a quiet turnaround

Co-founder Tom Ryan (photo provided)
Smashburger, one of several smaller burger chains that have entered the Capital Region market in recent years -- Elevation Burger, Burger 21, Five Guys, etc. -- is coming off a somewhat shaky financial footing.

The 370-location chain, with venues in Colonie, Niskayuna, Clifton Park, and Saratoga Springs, was founded in  2007 by former McDonald's and Quizno's executives and quickly went into expansion mode. However, they ran into stalled marketing efforts and went through a string of CEOs in quick succession.

Now, the company has achieved improved sales and increased traffic in recent months as a result of developing new burgers, increasing advertising, adopting new technology, and moving workers around.

Go here for a Nation's Restaurant News interview about the changes with Smashburger co-founder and CEO Tom Ryan.

Is restaurant industry 'meathead culture' tottering?

John Besh
From Nation's Restaurant News
News of sexual harassment allegations involving prominent New Orleans restaurateur [and TV personality] John Besh and his company has many in the restaurant industry wondering whether the tide is turning on bad behavior in kitchens.

The allegations were revealed in a New Orleans Times-Picayune report on Saturday. By Monday, Besh had stepped down as CEO of the restaurant group he co-owns, which operates 11 concepts including the celebrated August, Borgne, Dominica and Johnny Sánchez.

Knowing the news was coming, former partner -- and celebrated chef in his own right -- Alon Shaya split with Besh weeks ago, and is fighting for trademark rights to the restaurant Shaya, co-owned by Besh’s group. Harrah’s New Orleans casino cut ties with the group, pledging to rename its Besh Steak location. Local television stations said they would no longer show Besh’s programs.

Celebrity chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain on Twitter called it the beginning of the end of the “institutionalized meathead culture” within the industry.
Go here for the rest of the story.

Epicurean Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 

Openings & Closings & Etc.

• The latest reports on restaurants and food vendor openings, closings and transitions from the Greater Capital Region, as well as occasional entries from the Catskills, Central New York, Southern Vermont and the Berkshires.


• Dante's Pizzeria has moved to a new location, 14 Spring Avenue, in Troy. It is the site of the former Fitzie's market, opposite Sacred Heart, just off Pawling Avenue. Dante's had operated at 3rd and Jefferson since 1980. Its menu of pizzas, salads, wraps, sandwiches, and beverages is available online.

• It's rare that a Chinese restaurant restricts itself to Chinese cuisine these days. The newly-opened Lee's Dynasty in Adams, MA, shows that on its menu which includes dishes from Thailand, Korea and other Asian cultures, incuding traditional Chinese regional dishes usually not found on Chinese-American menus. Owner Xing Li opened the business at 131 Columbia Street in the 2,200-square-foot former Berkshire County Stove building he purchased in January for $125,000. A 90-square-foot vestibule was added to the structure. Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 9:30 p.m.

• Hong Yu has operated a dumpling cart for the past 17 years on Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, VT. Now, he has opened a retail shop, Hong's Chinese Dumplings, at 77 Pearl Street, former home to the Radio Deli. Her official opening was held on Saturday, assisted by more than $10,000 that 300 people contributed to her Go Fund Me campaign. Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with eventual plans to extend hours of operation to seven days a week until 8 p.m.


A Little Rice Ball, specializing in Japanese-inspired street food, is being developed for a late November/early December debut in Troy. The venue is located in the former Casale's Tavern at Fourth and Liberty streets. It is the first venture for JP Tucci, 25, a Troy resident with local restaurant experience that includes the former Troy location of Bombers Burrito Bar. According to a story on, "The investor behind A Little Rice Ball is Matt Baumgartner, founder and former owner of Bombers and current principal owner of Wolff’s Biergarten and The Olde English Pub & Pantry."

Monday, October 23, 2017

Specialty wine bar to be part of Mohawk Harbor development

The River House complex under construction. (photo provided)
The publisher of Chilled magazine is developing a venue to dispense some of what he writes about.

Anthony Graziano, whose media and marketing company is dedicated to the beer, wine, and spirits industries, is developing a wine bar called The Shaker & Vine that will be part of the River House, a retail/apartment complex on the waterfront at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady. That will make it a neighbor of the new Rivers Casino & Resort.

According to a news release from the Galesi Group, developer of Mohawk Harbor, a central feature of The Shaker & Vine will be a self-serve wine dispenser that will allow customers to pour a tasting portion or full glass of up to 60 different wines. It also will offer a full bar, specialty cocktails, and a menu to include gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, charcuterie boards, and chocolate and cheese fondue.

An early 2018 opening is anticipated.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Openings & Closings & Etc. (Updated)

• The latest reports on restaurants and food vendor openings, closings and transitions from the Greater Capital Region, as well as occasional entries from the Catskills, Central New York, Southern Vermont and the Berkshires.


A ribbon cutting ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Monday will mark the official opening of the Empire Fish Market, which has been operating in soft opening mode in Troy's North Central neighborhood for several weeks. The owner of the business is Jay Jackson, who opened the store  at 2952 Sixth Avenue in the former Oaks Cafe & Ministry building, He offers fresh and cooked seafood. The menu is available online, and delivery is available for an extra $2.99. Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Phone: 518-874-1816.

• Shacksbury Cider has scheduled an October 28 opening of its new tasting room at 11 Main Street in Vergennes, VT. Marketing director Alex Consalvo said the event will include food, live music, and cider samplings. The company is collaborating with chef David Chang's Momofuku restaurant group that will serve a beverage from Shacksbury with the working title Momofuku Cuvée.


Bread From Brooklyn, a supplier of baked goods to Upstate businesses that opened a store on Schenectady's Upper Union Street about four months ago, has shut down the operation. The company is blaming a problem with construction of the new City Squire Ale House with ruining its business. Here is its Facebook posting giving its side of the problem: "Official Public Statement ... Three months ago the new owners of the building around the corner and the parking lot, for which my landlord and I have an easement, blocked off that parking lot, making it impossible for my customers to get the bread rolls and bagels that were so popular. Notwithstanding numerous demands, the new 'neighbors' have ignored our rights and continue to block the parking lot, stifling my fledgling bakery on Upper Union Street in Schenectady. Without easy access to our product, customers have not come. So sadly I must close my doors. Our lawyers recommend that we say nothing further ... It was a pleasure serving Schenectady. I truly appreciate you all."

 • A longtime Pittsfield, MA, bagel business is on the brink of closing. Owner Susan Gordon has announced that Bagels Too will have to stop serving food as of October 31 under a deal she has worked out with the building's owner who wants to repurpose the 166 North Street space her business has occupied for 30 years. She still is seeking a buyer for the business itself.

Saturday, October 21, 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:

•  Smashburger’s ‘quiet turnaround’

•  KFC hides Colonel’s ‘secret recipe’ on Twitter

How Arby’s inspires its employees

Coffee brewing tips from the experts at Starbucks

• Burger King launches campaign against bullying

Burger 21 launches pizza burger, wedding cake shake 

Chipotle's Halloween celebration returns with $3 burritos 

Subway combating hunger on World Sandwich Day 

Romano's Macaroni Grill chain on brink of collapse

If you're a fan of Romano's Macaroni Grill, a restaurant chain that has operated a venue on Colonie's Wolf Road for decades, you may want to increase your visits there to help the financially troubled company.

The company this week filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid store closures and a restructuring of the Denver-based chain's operations. It recently closed 37 locations, prompting lawsuits by some of the company’s landlords.

According to a filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, many of the company’s landlords are “seeking to recover damages far in excess of anything they would be entitled to under bankruptcy." Macaroni Grill has 93 company-owned locations and franchises another 23 units.

RedRock Partners LLC of Arizona owns Macaroni Grill, which it acquired from Ignite Restaurant Group Inc. in 2015 for $8 million. In its filing, Macaroni Grill cited a decrease in sales and an increase in labor and commodity costs, which hurt profits.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Wineries affected by Napa wildfires will be OK

From Food & Wine magaine
I swear, if I see one more nitwit headline that says 'California’s 2017 Vintage Is Doomed by Smoke,' I’m going to bonk someone over the head with a bottle of Napa Cabernet.

Here’s why. While there’s no question that the wildfires in northern California’s wine regions have filled the air with smoke, that does not mean the 2017 vintage is doomed. Or even particularly damaged. Far from it.

Smoke taint in wine occurs when grapes (or leaves, or vines) absorb smoky compounds and transmit them into the resulting wine. One such case was the 2008 vintage in Mendocino and northern Sonoma, where forest fires in Mendocino cast an eight-day pall of smoke over many vineyards in the area, and as a result many wines suffered from a bitter, ashtray-ish quality (most quality growers whose wines were affected refused to release them). But those fires happened early in the growing season, when grapes were still developing, which is a key difference.
Go here for the full story.

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:

Lessons learned from Ruby Tuesday’s sale 

Pizza Hut: Breach impacted 'small percentage of customers'

Taco Bell, Forever 21 launch joint fashion line

Denny's launches seasonal menu

Blaze Pizza unveils new salad and Agua Fresca beverages

TGI Friday's introduces 30% bigger ribs tomorrow

Openings & Closings & Etc.

• The latest reports on restaurants and food vendor openings, closings and transitions from the Greater Capital Region, as well as occasional entries from the Catskills, Central New York, Southern Vermont and the Berkshires.


Saratoga Springs will be getting a Mexican restaurant where a quintessentially American restaurant did business for decades. Dan and Jennifer Pickett, who purchased 408 Broadway last year, are planning to renovate the building and open a restaurant and banquet space called Cantina in what had been home to Lillian's. It was opened in 1974 by Ray Morris, and was a downtown favorite until its final night of service, New Year's Eve 2015. Lillian’s was named for Lillian Russell, a prominent opera singer who spent summers in Saratoga Springs in the late 1800s.

Marrakesh Moroccan Cuisine is being developed in Clifton Park's Town Plaza, 800 Route 146. Job applications are being accepted at the premises. Cuisine from the North African country has long been popular in many parts of the U.S., but only recently has come to the Capital Region. Most prominent is the independently-owned Tara Kitchen, for example, with locations in Schenectady and Troy.

• Patricia Pendergast Novo, former owner of the Crush & Cask wine shop in Saratoga Springs, is developing Taverna Novo, a casual wine bar at 62 Beekman St. in Saratoga, where the Beekman Bar & Eatery was located until it closed several months ago. She said in a Facebook announcement, "Renovations and my special touches will commence very soon and we won’t be open for a few months most likely, as permits need to be obtained ... wine and beer licenses issued ... the works."