Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Finnbar's story sets record for 'Notes On Napkins' views

My post about a Facebook prank that attacked a Troy pub's business set a record with nearly 4,000 views, certainly tops for February and the most views for a single posting in the long history of this blog. You can read "Finnbar's Pub 'Pranked' on Facebook, but still going strong" by going here.

Here are the rest of the top 10 most-read postings for February. If you missed any of them, simply click on the specific headline to go to it.

2. Washington Tavern's 46th corned beef dinner coming up
3. 24 venues, 25 menus for Schenectady Restaurant Week
4. Troy Kitchen loses its French creperie 
5. Another 'best of' restaurant list fails from the beginning
6. Druthers on top again in Mac & Cheese Bowl competition
7. (tie) Colonie pizza-deli owner Nick Audi dies
    RateBeer ranks 4 NYS brewers among world's top 100
9. (tie) Brace yourself, Sonic opening Troy location on Friday
    Elevation Burger finally opens its doors in Latham

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Chain announces closings of 43 restaurants

Better call ahead if you plan on visiting any restaurant owned by Bloomin’ Brands Inc. The company has announced it will close 43 underperforming restaurants but doesn't have a track record of publicly revealing specific location closings ahead of time.

Bloomin' Brands is the parent of 1,500 restaurants operating under the brands Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Carrabba's Italian Grill -- all of which have or had Capital Region venues -- and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, which has locations only in California, Arizona and Alabama.

The Bonefish Grill in Colonie abruptly closed earlier this month without public notice. Although that particular location seemed to be popular, nationally the same-store sales of that brand fell nearly 2% from 2015 to 2016. Same-store sales at the company's flagship Outback Steakhouse chain in the same period fell 4.8%, and 2.3% at its Carrabba’s restaurants.

In the Capital Region, Bloomin' Brands still has a Carrabba's at 675 Troy Schenectady Road in Latham, and Outback Steakhouses at 610 Old Route 146 in Clifton Park, 145 Wolf Road in Colonie, and 925 Route 9 in Queensbury.
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Café Nola, closed for back taxes, now closed, period

Schenectady has lost a dining option. Café Nola, closed in early December after falling behind on tax payments, has permanently closed.

The restaurant, which was opened at 617 Union Street in 2010 by Kevin and Robin Brown, was seized by the state Department of Taxation and Finance for $53,000 in unpaid taxes dating back as far as April 2014.

The Daily Gazette reported today that the notice of seizure posted on the restaurant door the day of the closing "was removed in recent days, and the inside of the restaurant appears to be clear of any furniture." In addition, the pohone has been disconnected.

Cafe Nola -- the name is a contraction of New Orleans, LA -- specialized in Cajun and Creole dishes.
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The latest Beff's is now the late Beff's

Well, that didn't last long.

The generally-accepted statistic about the lifespan of new restaurants  isn't exactly encouraging -- 60% don't make it past year one -- so when a newbie goes belly-up in quick fashion it's not much of a surprise.

In this instance, however, it is the latest iteration of a business that has been in the area since the early '90s.

The latest version of Beff's, once a popular casual-dining spot in Albany, has closed its location at 471 Troy Schenectady Road in the former Bob & Ron's Fish Fry after just four months because of, as a voicemail  message tells callers, "circumstances beyond our control." Its Facebook page and website, however, make no mention of the closing.

The original Beff's was opened on Watervliet Avenue in Albany by Mickey Blanchfield around 1991. It then operated on Everett Road until about two years ago when it closed because of issues with the building. The one that just closed was called Beff's PWB, the letters standing for pizza, wings and beer that dominated a menu scaled down from the original Beff's.
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Monday, February 27, 2017

No James Beard Awards semifinalists in region

The annual James Beard Awards semifinalists list is out. The finalists will be revealed on March 15, and winners of the prestigious awards will be announced on May 1.

Nothing for the Greater Capital Region, although there are several nominees from nearby areas and, of course, New York City. They are, by category:

Best New Restaurant

Le Coucou, NYC
Olmsted, Brooklyn

Outstanding Baker

Dianna Daoheung, Black Seed Bagels, NYC
Zachary Golper, Bien Cuit, Brooklyn

Outstanding Bar Program

Bar Goto, NYC
The Dead Rabbit, NYC

Outstanding Chef

Gabrielle Hamilton, Prune, NYC
Mark Ladner, Del Posto, NYC

Outstanding Pastry Chef

Marc Aumont, Gabriel Kreuther, NYC
Ghaya Oliveira, Daniel, NYC

Outstanding Restaurant

Frankies 457 Spuntino, Brooklyn
Momofuku Noodle Bar, NYC
The Spotted Pig, NYC

Outstanding Restaurateur

Andrew Tarlow, Brooklyn (Diner, Marlow & Sons, Reynard, and others)

Outstanding Service

Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, Westchester County
Marea, NYC

Outstanding Wine Program

Corkbuzz, NYC
Rouge Tomate, NYC

Outstanding Wine, Beer, Spirits Professional

Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, Evil Twin Brewing, Brooklyn
Chris Weld, Berkshire Mountain Distillers, Sheffield, Berkshire County, MA
Aldo Sohm, Zalto Glass, NYC

Rising Star Chef of the Year

Elise Kornack, Take Root, Brooklyn

Best Chef: New York City

Rawia Bishara, Tanoreen, Brooklyn
Danny Bowien, Mission Chinese Food
Marco Canora, Hearth
Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi, Carbone
John Fraser, Nix
Markus Glocker, Bâtard
Sean Gray, Momofuku Ko
Brooks Headley, Superiority Burger
Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau, Shuko
Anita Lo, Annisa
Ignacio Mattos, Estela
Carlo Mirarchi, Blanca, Brooklyn
Joe Ng, RedFarm
Alex Raij and Eder Montero, Txikito
Ann Redding and Matt Danzer, Uncle Boons
Missy Robbins, Lilia, Brooklyn
Justin Smillie, Upland
Jeremiah Stone and Fabián von Hauske, Contra
Alex Stupak, Empellón Cocina
Jody Williams, Buvette Gastrothèque

Best Chef: Northeast

Mucuy Bolles and Christian Makay, Three Stones, Brattleboro, VT
Jordan Ware and Eric Warnstedt, Hen of the Wood, Burlington, VT

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Scotia's burned-out Dairy Circus to be reconstructed

The scene on April 18, 2016
Scotia's Village Planning Board will review plans at its meeting next Monday to rebuild the Dairy Circus that was destroyed by a fire last April after nearly a half-century in business.

The plans call for the restaurant and ice cream stand to be rebuilt in much the same fashion as the business Robb and Doreen Clemons have operated at the Sacandaga Road (Route 147) site opposite Scotia-Glenville High School since 1970.

In addition to its long-run popularity, the Dairy Circus gained a bit more notice when it was chosen as a setting for a scene between actors Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes in the filming of the 2011 movie "The Place Beyond the Pines."

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Cambridge bakery cafe moving to Hubbard Hall building

Lisa and Scott Carrino (photo provided)
The Round House Bakery Café in Cambridge is planning to move a little further up East Main Street to the same building that houses the Washington County village's iconic Hubbard Hall arts center.

The cafe currently operates at East Main and Washington streets in a building that is for sale. Cafe owners Lisa and Scott Carrino had create a GoFundMe site in an attempt to raise enough money to buy the building, but that effort has not been suffiicient.

“Having Round House Bakery Café here will be such a wonderful addition to all the ways we serve our community,” David Snider, Hubbard Hall’s executive director told the Post-Star. "The presence of Round House will be a boon for our audiences and our students. And the community will be better able to stay connected with all that we do here on the Hubbard Hall campus.”

Said Lisa Carrino, “We’ll have twice the kitchen space with a real stove and proper storage. We will have more seating and the possibility to have a refrigerated pastry case and more shelving to present our baked goods and retail offerings in a way that we cannot in our present location. We look forward to offering (Hubbard) Hall audience members meals and refreshments before and after shows."
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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Wolff's Biergarten gets a surprise visitor at Troy location



Apparently a motorist was confused upon hearing a new drive-in restaurant had opened "just over the bridge" in Troy.

The problem is that the new restaurant is a Sonic Drive-In, and the location is in a shopping complex just east of the Collar City Bridge. What we see here is a Wolff's Biergarten, just east of the Green Island Bridge about six long blocks from Sonic. And, it does not offer drive-in service.

The impromptu "visit" occurred around 3:30 on Saturday afternoon. Luckily, no one was injured, despite how scary these photos by owner Matt Baumgartner appear.

Baumgartner at least had an upbeat take on the accident, commenting on Facebook, "Apparently our patio is so beautiful that people get distracted and drive right into it!"

Other, undamaged Wolff's locations are in Albany, Schenectady, and Syracuse.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Event to share the long and short -- and stout -- of tea

There is oh-so-much more to tea than simply dunking a bag in a mug of hot water. "Discover Tea and Tea Tasting," to be hosted by the Voorheesville Public Library, will expand on that.

The event, scheduled for 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, will feature a "tea ambassador" from the Short and Stout Tea Company for a discussion on what tea is, its history, and how it is brewed. And, of course, there will be tea tasting.

As the event organizers ask, "Did you know that white, green, oolong and black tea all come from the same tea plant? Find out what happens after the leaves are plucked that makes all the difference."

Reservations for the event are requested. The Voorheesville Public Library is located at 51 School Road. Phone: (518) 765-2791. The Short and Stout tea lounge and bubble tea bar is located at 1736 Western Avenue in Guilderland. Phone: (518) 456-8327.
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Finnbar's Pub 'punked' on Facebook, but still going strong

Finnbar's main entrance
A presently unknown person -- one hopes he or she will be found out -- apparently created a phony Facebook page that declared Finnbar's Pub in Troy was permanently closed.

Proprietor Sean Patrick Costello, who owns Finnbar's with wife Megan, explains that although the problem has been rectified by a Facebook staffer, "in the last few weeks [we] have had to countlessly correct customers that came in and were worried their favorite spot was closed. Not true. ... not true ... not true. The Pub is not going anywhere. All your favorite scratch cooked favorites, wings, burgers, and award winning fish and chips are here to stay."

Finnbar's, which opened in July 2012 as successor to the long-running Holmes & Watson pub, is located downtown at 452 Broadway, next to the main U.S. Post Office. Hours: Monday-Thursday noon to 11 p.m., Friday-Saturday noon to midnight. Phone: (518) 326-3994. You can access its real Facebook page here, or go to its website here.

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Hazlitt's ice wine wins 'best of show' in California test

The "Best in Show"
The Northeast's current warm spell may be conducive to thinking "ice wine." That certainly is the case at the Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards.

The Schuyler County company's, 2014 Vidal Ice Wine just took "Best of Show" honors at the International Eastern Wine Competition/East Meets West in Sonoma, CA.

En route to that accolade, the wine won Double Gold (unanimous vote of the tasting panel), "Best of Class," and "Best Dessert Wine" awards.

Earlier awards for the same wine, bottled in September 2014, include Double Gold in the New York State Fair Commercial Wine Competition; "Best of Show," "Best Late Harvest/Dessert Wine," "Best of Class" and Double Gold in the International Eastern test. It retails for $45 for the 375ml bottle.

In addition, Hazlitt's Schooner White earned Double Gold, and its 2014 Homestead Riesling, 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, White Cat, and Light Port. each won a Gold medal.
 
Other major New York State entries: winners: Black Willow 2015 Diamond (Gold and Best of Class) and 2015 Trilogy Red (Gold); plus, Golds for Chateau Lafayette Reneau's 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Owner's Reserve; Torrey Ridge's 2015 Baco Noir; Glenora's 2015 Vidal Ice Wine, 2015 Pinot Blanc, and 2015 Chardonnay; Hosmer 's2015 Pinot Gris; Lamoreaux Landing's 2015 Estate Riesling Round Rock Vineyard (Double Gold and Best of Class); Liberty Vineyards' Fredonia; Penguin Bay's 2015 Dry Riesling, 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve, and 2015 Riesling; Swedish Hill's 2015 Dry Riesling, and 2015 Riesling; Thirsty Owl's 2015 Pinot Noir, and 2015 Riesling; Wagner's 2014 Riesling Ice (Double Gold and Best of Class), and 2015 Semi-Dry Riesling; and Whitecliff 's 2013 Petit Verdot.

Go here for the full list of award-winners in all categories.
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Friday, February 24, 2017

Glens Falls plans year-round indoor farmers market site

Conceptual design of market (not for final use)
Glens Falls conceivably could get a permanent spot for a year-round indoor farmers market.

A project called "Market on South Street” that would be constructed at the city's South Street parking lot, also would include space for retail shops, with storefront entrances accessible from the sidewalk. It is part of the city’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) plan that will be submitted Tuesday for state approval.

The single-story building also would have a commercial production kitchen behind the storefronts, and space for an outdoor farmers market component during warmer months, according to Simon Kates, a consultant with BFJ Planning who spoke at a final public hearing Thursday on the overall revitalization project. A parking garage would be built behind the complex.

The city would own the complex and manage it in cooperation with participating organizations, accoring to EDC Warren County President Edward Bartholomew, administrator of the DRI grant. 

The farmers market idea is among a dozen or so projects the committee has recommended for funding from the DRI grant. Approval must be received by a state review committee and by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
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Washington Tavern's 46th corned beef dinner coming up

Weekly specials, limited-time prix fixe menus, restaurant weeks and the like come and go, but not many local dining traditions last nearly a half-century. That's what makes an upcoming event at The Washington Tavern in Albany noteworthy.

On Saturday, March 4, it will host its 46th annual "Customer Appreciation Corned Beef and Cabbage Day." Michael and Patricia Byron opened The Washington Tavern in 1971 and began this tradition with Pat’s father, Carl Kelley.

As Julie Byron explained today, "Many long hours of hard work and preparation begin with the peeling of carrots and potatoes, the buttering of fresh rye loafs, and the cooking of many pounds of corned beef and cabbage. It is a day of reflection, good food, live music and most of all, gratitude."

On this day, it is custom that Mike works behind while Pat prepares the dinner. Their three daughters and grandchildren working alongside Pat and chef Shawn Favaro in the kitchen for the day.

Irish music will be provided by Marty Brandon. Lunch service will begin at noon, but the regular menu will not be available until dinner at 6 p.m.

The Washingtion Tavern is located at 250 Western Avenue, Albany. Reservations: 427-0091.
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Tonico, an offbeat endeavor, popping up tonight in Troy

The first public look at a new Troy food and drink vendor is here. A pop-up version of Tonico will debut from 6 to 9 tonight at the Superior Merchandise Co. coffee shop, 147 4th Street, during the "Troy Night Out" event.

Tonico is described as an an in-development "cafe and tonic bar" offering "New Folk food prepared using local and wild ingredients, natural materials and the slow, traditional techniques of our foremothers and grandpappys."

The cafe will offer such drinks as kombucha, fizzy elixirs, bitters and soda and reishi oat milk. The explanation  of the latter item will, I think, go a long way to explaining the vibe of the new business: "Reishi + Oat Mylk made with activated organic oats, NY maple syrup, vanilla and wild reishi double extract. Topped with mesquite powder and your very own maple cloud spun locally from pure maple sugar."

Tonico, targeted for a spring opening, will be located at 40 River Street, the former location of Capital Roots. Its Facebook page has a lot of additional information on its edibles, drinkables, self-care items, and so on.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Troy Farmers Market returning to River Street venue

The Troy Waterfront Farmers Market is moving its outdoor home again -- back to its River Street location after a one-year stand at the city's downtown Riverfront Park.

The market currently is operating in its indoor season home at the Troy Atrium on Third Street, where it will remain until the start of the outdoor season on Saturday, May 6. It then will operate on River Street from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday throughout the more hospitable months.

The temporary switch to the park in 2016 was necessitated by a city construction project on River Street, which had been the market’s primary outdoor home since 2009. The market was founded in 2000 in the parking lot next to the Hedley Park Place building on River Street, and the winter market was added two years later.

“We are thrilled to return to River Street for the Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market’s outdoor season this year,” said Liz Hammond, market manager. “This unique location offers our patrons the opportunity to not only enjoy the weekly Farmers’ Market, but also experience the diverse offerings of one of the Capital Region’s most historic and beautiful downtown settings.”
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Dizzy Chicken joining Saratoga Springs dining rotation

Why is the Dizzy Chicken crossing the county line? To get to Saratoga Springs, obviously.

The Glens Falls restaurant that specializes in wood-fired rotisserie chicken -- thus the business name -- has announced it is opening a Saratoga Springs venue, at the 102 Congress Street location that formerly was home to Legends Cafe. A spring debut is planned.

Justin Bartlett
Co-founder Justin Bartlett studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, then earned an MBA from Union Graduate College. While at the CIA, he was running the front of the house at an upscale Mediterranean restaurant in Rhinebeck, where he met executive chef Wilson Costa. They eventually became friends and teamed up to create Dizzy Chicken.

In addition to the expected chicken dishes plus panini and salads,  the menu at the current restaurant -- 72 South Street in Glens Falls -- also offers such items as pulled pork croquettes (pork shoulder, russet potato, garlic, parmesan, smoked paprika, and panko bread crumbs, with a horseradish dipping sauce); a house-smoked pastrami Reuben; dry-rubbed St. Louis ribs, and smoked meat loaf  (pork, beef, parmesan, herbs, and tomato reduction).

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Albany beer shop rebranding, adding Saratoga bar

New Pint Sized location with logo superimposed
Beer lovers in the Capital Region may not be familiar with the name Pint Sized, but that is about to change.

August Rosa today announced he is rebranding Brew, his original 209 Lark Street, Albany, business  with that name even as he prepares to open a second location of Pint Sized, a small craft beer bar and bottle shop, at 489 Broadway in Saratoga Springs.

Rosa is taking advantage of the current Saratoga Craft Beer Week to announced his new venue, targeted for an early spring opening, and he selected the new name to effectively describe the size of the bar.

"Pint Sized is probably going to be the smallest bar in the area presenting guests with a unique and cozy craft beer experience. It’s got to be one of, if not THE, smallest bars in the Capital Region," Rosa says.

It will have 12 beers on tap, available by the glass or growler. There also will be a wide selection of brews to purchase for off-premise consumption. Product will be sold broken up as single units, packaged, or as mix-six packs with a $3 discount. There also will be a small wine list and a rotating menu of light fare foods.

“It’s going to be tight,” Rosa said, “but patrons will experience something truly unique here. The small nature of the space lends itself to creativity. An additional benefit is a constantly rotating fresh inventory and a requirement to make every square foot count. There is no room for sub-par product.”

Rosa also said th original Albany location will add a bar for on-site consumption "down the road."

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Save the date: Wine dinner fundraiser for students of French

Amorici Vineyard, located in the countryside on the border of Washington and Rensselaer counties, is reaching far beyond that region to assist students studying French.

Owner-winemaker Joe Messina will host a wine pairing event for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29. Reservations are $60 per person, limited to 28 seats. Proceeds will go to help support area students studying French as part of an annual program from La Fédération Franco-Américaine du New York.

The buffet dinner menu: a glass of wine, French bread, salad, coq au vin, beef Bourguignon, quiche with seasonal vegetables, haricots verts, scalloped potatoes, fresh fruit for dessert, coffee and tea. Additional wine will be available for purchase.

Reservations may be made by calling Yvette at (518) 272-5061. Checks, payable to FeFANY, should be sent to FeFANY, P.O. Box 354, Cohoes, NY, 12047.
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Soda bread contest adds demonstration of a very Irish sport

Examples of Irish soda breads
Anyone who has seen travel documentaries on Irish village life no doubt has seen examples of a pastime called "road bowling." If you are not among them, you'll be able to see a display of the activity during the 5th annual "Maureen Farrell McCarthy Irish Soda Bread Competition" on Saturday, March 4, at the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany.

The overall event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the museum's Hogarty Family Exhibit Hall at 370 Broadway. Competitors are required to pay an advance $5 entry fee online.

The competition is the creation of Harold Quarters, a retired chef of Irish-American heritage, and is named in honor of the late Maureen Farrell McCarthy originally of Crookhaven, Ireland, who was a museum trustee and a judge at the inaugural competition. The amateur baking competition involves two categories: traditional white flour Irish soda bread and family, not strictly traditional Irish soda bread.

At noon, the museum will be featuring a demonstration on traditional Irish road bowling, at 1 p.m. Qualters will lead a presentation on the history of Irish soda bread as well as a demonstration on how to make the traditional version, at 1:30 the competitors' breads will be available for tasting, and at 2 o'clock the awards will be presented.

Road bowling -- as shown in the photo below -- dates back to at least the 1600s. Competitors attempt to take the fewest throws to propel a metal ball along a predetermined course of country roads. Wikipedia has information on the rules, equipment and history of the sport.

A road bowler leaves his feet in an effort to propel the ball as far as possible.

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New Capital Center to host latest mac-and-cheese event

Map shows location of the new Capital Center facility.

If last Saturday's Mac & Cheese Bowl that drew about 2,000 people to Siena College wasn't enough, the "Hannaford MAAC-n-Cheese Fest" might fill that craving.

The 2nd annual event that celebrates the return of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) men's and women's college basketball championship tournament to the Times Union Center, will be held nearby from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the new Capital Center in downtown Albany on Friday, March 3.

Tickets, priced from $8 to $10 and covering 10 tastings of any combination of mac-'n'-cheese or craft beer, may be purchased online.

Among food purveyors supplying the samples:
  • Allie B’s Cozy Kitchen
  • Ama Cocina
  • Angelo’s 677 Prime
  • Capitol Melts Grilled Cheese Café
  • Cider Belly Doughnuts
  • The City Beer Hall
  • Dave & Buster’s
  • Druthers Brewing Company
  • The Hollow Bar & Kitchen
  • Parish Public House
  • Public House 42
  • Wellington’s
And, among the craft beer suppliers:
  • Brewery Ommegang
  • Brown’s Brewing Company
  • Ithaca Beer Company
  • Saranac Brewery
A portion of proceeds will benefit the Times Union Hope Fund which serves children in need throughout the Capital Region.

The Albany Capital Center is located at 55 Eagle Street, Parking options include 67 Howard Street, the Renaissance parking garage, or on-street parking.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Queensbury will be latest local venue to get a Chipotle

The Greater Capital Region is getting yet another link in the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain.

A Chipotle will be opened next to the post office in the Northway Plaza on Route 9, according to paperwork filed with the Town of Queensbury. It is expected to be open for business this summer. The news comes close on the heels of last month's announcement that a Chipotle is in the works in North Greenbush.

This is part of a slight expansion by the chain after riding out a health scare in 2015 caused by outbreaks of E.coli at restaurants in some of its markets. In addition to changing some of its suppliers and expanding its advertising to focus on its use of fresh ingredients, the Denver-based company this week announced the introduction of a new digital ordering system it says cut pickup times by 50% in tests.

The Queensbury shopping complex currently is home to two others chains, a Panera Bread cafe and a Texas Roadhouse restaurant. Other Chipotles in the region are located on Western Avenue in Guilderland; on Wolf Road in Colonie; on Wade Road in Latham; on Balltown Road in Niskayun; in the Clifton Park Center, and on Route 509 next to the Wilton Mall.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gramercy Bistro chowder tops in North Adams Winterfest

Nine restaurants vied for honors in the weekend's North Adams (MA) Winterfest chowder competition, with Gramercy Bistro emerging top-rated by a panel of judges.

Boston Seafood was the favorite in the people's choice voting.

More than 4,000 samples were ladled out by the winners as well as by Bounti-Fare, Grazie, The Hub, Mingos, MCLA Dining Services, North Adams Commons, and Williamstown Commons.

Judges selected Gramercy Bistro for its curry chowder. Grazie and the Hub tied for second place. Gramercy is located at 87 Marshall Street in North Adams. Phone: (413) 663-5300.

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Bogus 'best of' restaurant list eliciting bogus pats on the back

I recently wrote a post dismantling the latest "best of" list that purports to pick the top restaurant in each of the largest 50 communities in Upstate New York.

The list was riddled with errors and inconsistencies -- not the least of which is that it did not even have an accurate list of which are the 50 largest communities, but that apparently didn't register with everyone in this social media era when items are merely repeated without being verified.

I have seen several congratulatory notes on Facebook referring to restaurants being ranked No. 8 or No. 4 or whatever among Upstate venues. They are wrong. The latest example appears in the Glens Falls Post-Star today which says, "Bistro Tallulah on Ridge Street in downtown Glens Falls was named as the top-ranked restaurant in upstate New York's 50 biggest cities and towns list." That, too, is wrong.

Just like the shaky list it cites, the post is erroneous as are the aforementioned declarations of being No. 8 or whatever number seems to apply. Why? The answer is simple. The list does not declare the top-ranked restaurant or restaurants in Upstate. What it does offer is its opinion on which restaurant is the "best" in each of the 50 communities it cities. And, it does not rank them in any particular overall order.

Conclusion: The way this list is being read by some people is reminiscent of an old parlor game in which a person makes up a sentence, whispers it into the ear of the person sitting next to them who repeats the process to the next person, and so on. Usually, by the time the last person says aloud what has been passed along to them it bears little resemblance to the original message.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Epicurean Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions.


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Burned-out Indian restaurant being rebuilt in Guilderland

Co-owner Ann Thomas
Reconstruction has begun on a Guilderland building that once was the city's most thriving restaurant, but then was taken over by a succession of operators until it was closed by extensive fire damage last September.

What for decades was The Chariot, a popular Greek restaurant that closed when owners Mike and Penny Shinas decided to retire, operated for a year and a half as the Nirvana Indian Restaurant in its most recent incarnation.

The fire damage was largely confined to the Nirvana kitchen. Co-owner Ann Thomas told The Altamont Enterprise, "It’s an old building. We have to start the electrical stuff like brand-new, from scratch.”

Nirvana was opened by five partners -- Thomas, Sam Mannikarottu, Vinitha Thottam, A.E. Job and Anisha Idiyalil. The building, located at 518 Western Turnpike opposite the Town Hall complex, operated as the Inn Town Restaurant and the Evans Public House before it became Nirvana. There is no targeted opening date as of yet.

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SCCC 'Chefs for Success' to honor local culinary achievers

Small plates, cocktails and lots of pats on the back are on the menu for "Chefs for Success," a social event at Schenectady County Community College on Tuesday.

The 9th annual event, set for the Van Curler Room, will honor a group of graduates of the college's School of Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism. It will begin with a 6 p.m. cocktail hour, followed by a gala reception with live stations  serving foods paired with wines and craft beers.

Guest chefs to be honored:
  • Jared Bafaro, The Tailored Tea, Latham 
  • Melissa Doney, Brown's Brewing Company, Troy 
  • Giovanni Morina, Gio Culinary Studio, Voorheesville 
  • Shawn Nash, Saratoga Casino Hotel, Saratoga Springs 
  • Jeffrey Rayno, Fish at 30 Lake, Saratoga Springs 
  • Anna Weisheit, The Hollow Bar + Kitchen, Albany
Tickets, priced at $75, are available online. The college is located at 78 Washington Avenue, Schenectady.

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Berkshires town gets Philly cheese steak from a Philly chef

Xavier Jones at the grill (iBerkshires.com photo)
From iBerkshires.com
ADAMS, MA -- Bigg Daddy's Philly Steak House brings a little piece of Philadelphia to Berkshire County with a list of inspired steaks, hoagies, burgers and wings. Philadelphia native Xavier Jones said he wanted to bring something special to the area, something natives may have never really experienced in its true form.

"You go to Subway and they put this precooked processed meat on and they toast the bun and there are other places that are just steak and cheese," Jones said. "People travel from all over the world to go get a Philly cheese steak, why not bring Philly cheese steak to the mecca of New England."

The chef has been in the area for some time, involved in restaurants up and down the county as well as other parts of Western Massachusetts. ... He was driving through Adams and couldn't find a place to eat and felt a Philly cheese steak restaurant was just what the town needed. Once he found the 85 Commercial Street location next to the Viking Pub, he realized it was the perfect fit for what he wanted to do.

"I looked at a bunch of places but this right here seemed perfect. I came up and looked at it and studied it and found that this was the perfect spot to do take out delivery," he said. "Plus it was a triple threat: takeout, delivery and the Viking Pub. Our food is served right in the pub."
Go here for the full story.

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Lake Placid restaurateur Ed Kane eulogized by officials

Ed Kane at work
Ed Kane, founder and owner of the Great Adirondack Steak & Seafood Company and the Great Adirondack Brewing Company, died on January 14 at the age of 86, and this week the community said its goodbyes, according to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Kane, a native of Brooklyn and a former U.S. Marine, joined the Lake Placid food-and-beverage scene in 1982 when he purchased The Artist’s Cafe at 1 Main Street in the village.

 “I’m certainly going to miss him for all of the years he would step out of his office and walk around Mirror Lake,” Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said Tuesday at the village board meeting. “I remember seeing him every day making that walk around the lake. He was religious about that. And certainly our sympathies go out to his family.”

Village Trustee Art Devlin added, “He was one of Lake Placid’s colorful characters. Lake Placid is known for having quite a few. He’s a good guy who cared about Lake Placid and wasn’t afraid to get up and speak his mind, which a lot of people aren’t always inclined to do. He’s certainly going to be missed.”

Fred, Willie and Rob, the sons of Ed and Joan Kane, continue the family tradition at the steak and seafood restaurant on Main Street, which they opened in 1987, and the brewing company, established in 1998. The family operated the Artist’s Cafe until 2001.

In keeping with Ed's wishes, there is no formal service, but the family said it will celebrate his  life in the spring, and his cremains will be placed in the Sussdorff Family Cemetery in Port Kent.
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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Druthers on top again in Mac & Cheese Bowl competition

The people's choice for best booth (photo by Bill Dowd)
Chef Mike Spain shows off
Druthers' trophies

(photo courtesy of the Times Union)
Druthers, the brewpub with Saratoga Springs and Albany locations, once again proved Siena College is a pretty good venue as well when it took top honors at the 8th annual Mac & Cheese Bowl held there today.

Just like last year at Siena, Druthers took first place in both the balloting by a panel of judges (including yours truly) and the people’s choice voting, this year for a clever "Big Mac-and-cheese egg roll," served up in a takeout-style sandwich container on a bed of shredded lettuce with a drizzle of special sauce.

The event, which drew about 2,000 people to two afternoon  tasting sessions, is a benefit for the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. It is co-sponsored by the Times Union and its Tablehopping blog.

Imagination wasn't limited to the food
(photo by Bill Dowd)
About 25 restaurants and food suppliers competed for honors. Wolff’s Biergarten of Albany won best display and took second place for its mixed cheese-and-bacon crumble dish, with Slidin’ Dirty of Troy taking third for its mac and cheese dish with pungent, sweet caramelized onions.

The wide-ranging recipes also included such concoctions as a s'mores dessert mac from the Philly Bar & Lounge in Latham; a savory gouda/cheddar/chorizo/apple dish from the Savoy Taproom in Albany; an item called "Porky's Revenge" from Blu Stone Bistro in Colonie that included crisp pork belly, ham and bacon; a Peruvian aji pepper dish from La Empanada Llama in Albany; and, a tasty cheddar jack, cheddar, porter, BBQ pork dish from Tipsy Moose Tap & Tavern of Latham.

Among a lineup of home cooks, Stephen Piorkowski of Delmar won for his Italian-American mac and cheese with meatballs.

This wasn't his first winning rodeo. He also took top honors in the first Mac & Cheese Bowl back in 2010.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Voluntary industry guidelines set for product 'use by' labels


If you have a food product with a "sell by" date that already has passed, you'd better get rid of it, right? Not so fast.

"Sell by," "use by," "best if used by" and other phrases can mean different things. In an effort to improve the public's understanding, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association this week introduced standardized, voluntary regulations to clear up what product date labels mean. Within reason, products with an outdated "expiration" date often are safe to consume.

Manufacturers use as many as 10 different label phrases, ranging from "expires on" to "better if used by." They'll now be encouraged to use only two:

• "Use By" --  A safety designation indicating when perishable foods no longer are good.

•  "Best if Used By" -- A subjective guess of by when the manufacturer thinks the product should be consumed for peak flavor.
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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Report: Taste NY program helped triple sales in 2016

The state's Taste NY program created to promote the state's food and beverage industries is three years old. So, how is it doing?

Sales of those items nearly tripled in 2016, according to an analysis just released by Governor Andrew Cuomo's office, surpassing what it says was his goal of doubling sales of participating businesses in one year.

Total gross sales of New York products from Taste NY stores, cafés, bars, concessions and events topped $13.1 million last year, the highest annual sales in the program’s brief history.

“Taste NY continues to connect New York’s world-class farmers and food and beverage producers with New Yorkers hungry for locally made goods, as well as those across the nation and around the world who crave the high quality of Empire State-made products," Cuomo said. “These sales numbers are proof positive of Taste NY's success and we will continue investing in this program to help create jobs and spur economic growth in businesses and communities across New York."

The sales increase in 2016 was supported by the addition of four new Taste NY stores and cafés. In addition, the first-ever Taste NY Bar was opened at Barclays Center, home to the Brooklyn Nets basketball team and the New York Islanders hockey team. A second later was opened at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater.

New York products also are offered on 13 Amtrak trains and at five minor league baseball stadiums in the state, and at dozens of major events around New York. Cuomo's 2017-18 Executive Budget proposes support for Taste NY at new welcome centers across the state.

The budget proposal also includes expanding the sale of alcoholic beverages in certain venues, such as movie theaters, an effort to provide a boost to the state’s craft beverage industry, although Cuomo's message does not limit that to New York products as an earlier speech seemed to indicate.  In addition, Cuomo has proposed the launch of a first-ever "New York Craft Beverage Week" and a new grant for craft beverage producers to engage in joint marketing campaigns and enter products in national and international competitions.

Richard A. Ball, state agriculture commissioner, says, “Taste NY has given consumers an opportunity to better understand what the State has known all along -- our local food and beverage companies are truly second to none.  Because of the strong, positive response to the Taste NY brand, agricultural producers and small businesses in every region of the state are growing, expanding their operations and adding jobs, and helping to strengthen the State economy.” 
   

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'Soupurr Cook Off' set for Saturday in Gloversville

Attention fans of soups and cats. The Cat Sanctuary and Information Center in Gloversville is prepping for its 2nd annual "Soupurr Cook Off " this Saturday.

The fundraiser, to be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the Gloversville Senior Center, 53 Church Street, will go toward supporting the work of the feline aid organization. Tasting admission is $5 for anyone over age five.

The event will allow attendees to taste and vote on soups created by local chefs. Rolls, beverages, and dessert will be available.
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For Jimmy John's, and then there were two

One of the three Capital Region locations of the Jimmy John's sandwich shop chain has gone out of business.

The 1625 Union Street, Schenectady, venue that opened two years ago this month is no more. In the fashion typical for chains, there was no advance public notice of the abrupt move.

A sign taped to the door states, in part, what is obvious from the newspaper-covered windows: “Thank you for your business. We regret to inform you that this location is no longer open. ..."

The Jimmy John's locations at 2080 Western Avenue in Guilderland and 622 New Loudon Road in Latham remain open for now.
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Bonefish Grill abruptly shutters its Colonie location

Two days ago I received an email notification from the Bonefish Grill chain that I could find several specials awaiting me at my local restaurant. But, as of today, I don't have one.

The area's only link in that national chain of 200+ restaurants, open since October 2013 at 59 Wolf Road in Colonie, abruptly went out of business yesterday.

As usually is the case with chain closings -- and sometimes with independent spots as well -- there was no advance public notice, and there is no mention of the move on the company's website or social media.

In an unintended bit of irony, while someone who answered the phone at the restaurant today confirmed "this is a permanent thing, not temporary," the website does list "today's specials" at the Colonie location.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Catching you up on on beer-centric events

Here's a small sampling of the many beer-centric events going on in the Greater Capital Region.

• The 6th annual Saratoga Beer Week will run from next Tuesday through Saturday, February 25, at the Saratoga City Center, 522 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, and numerous other venues throughout the city. Many have scheduled sampling sessions for various New York State beers. Go here for the full rundown of all events.

• Executive chef Matt Weekes of Henry Street Taproom, 86 Henry Street, Saratoga Springs, is teaming with Christian Weber of Common Roots Brewing Company of South Glens Falls and Kevin Mullen of Rare Form Brewing Company of Troy for a four-course beer pairing dinner from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Monday. Reservations are $65. Phone: (518) 886-8938.

Bailey's Cafe, 37 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs, will offer a New York beer pairing menu from Tuesday through Saturday, February 25, as part of Saratoga Beer week, from noon to 11 p.m. each day. It will feature such labels as Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, Saratoga Local Session IPA, Saranac Legacy IPA, and Druthers Fist of Karma Brown. Phone: (518) 583-6060.

• A tasting of gluten free beers and ciders will be held at Kraverie from 4:30 to 10 p. m. Wednesday, February 22. A sampling of gluten free food items also will be available. Kraverie is located at  78 Beekman Street, Saratoga Springs. Phone: (518) 450-7423.
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'Locavore Weekend' planned at Adirondack Winery

Adirondack Winery's annual "Locavore Weekend" is scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday during the Lake George Winter Carnival.

Admission is $20 per person, with reservations available online, although advance purchase is not required.

Attendees will be able to try samples of mulled wines and foods from several local food producers. All food products will be for sale at a 10% discount. In addition, a special tasting flight featuring Adirondack wines will be available, featuring:

• Gil's zesty lemon olives with Sauvignon Blanc or Syrah
• Saratoga Cracker cheese crackle with Merlot or Blue Twilight
• Eagle Ridge pepper sauce with Semi-Dry Riesling or Prospect Mountain White
• JM Farm maple glazed nuts with Pinot Noir or Amethyst Sunset
• Barkeater caramel candy with Fireside Reserve

Adirondack Winery is located at 285 Canada Street in Lake George Village. Phone: (518) 668-WINE.

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Epicurean Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions.


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Time running out to get Mac & Cheese Bowl tickets

If you haven't purchased your tickets for Saturday's 8th annual Mac & Cheese Bowl at Siena College, time is running out.

The fundraiser for the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, historically a sellout event, will be held in  two sessions, beginning at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. in the Marcelle Athletic Campus on the Loudonville campus at 515 Loudon Road.

More than 30 local restaurants are scheduled to supply their versions of the iconic American dish which will be evaluated by a panel of judges -- including yours truly and event founder Steve Barnes of the Times Union. In addition, attendees will be able to vote for their favorites in the people's choice category.

Tickets, priced at $20 for adults and $5 for kids ages 5 to 12, are on sale at all Price Chopper/Market 32 locations. More than 2,000 people are expected to attend, based on past years' turnouts.

Participating food providers:
  • Allie B’s Cozy Kitchen 
  • Blu Stone Bistro 
  • Campagna Restaurant 
  • Canvas, Corks & Forks 
  • City Line Bar & Grill 
  • Druthers Brewing Company 
  • Flying Chicken 
  • Honest Weight Food Co-Op 
  • i-Dog Macaroni Company 
  • Il Faro Restaurant & Bar 
  • Katie O’Byrnes Restaurant 
  • La Empanada Llama 
  • Glen Sanders Mansion 
  • Mercato’s III 
  • Mess Hall 
  • Pasta Pane 
  • Philly Bar and Lounge 
  • Pig ‘N Whistle 
  • At the Grove 
  • Price Chopper/Market 32 
  • Saati Deli & Catering 
  • Savoy Taproom 
  • SienaFresh 
  • Slidin’ Dirty 
  • Soul Kitchen 
  • Spindles on Remsen 
  • Tipsy Moose Tap and Tavern 
  • Valente’s Restaurant 
  • Washington Tavern 
  • Wheatfields Bistro & Wine Bar 
  • Wolff’s Biergarten

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24 venues, 25 menus for Schenectady Restaurant Week

Schenectady Restaurant Week is ready to begin Monday, with 24 participating venues lined up to offer special $25 fixed price menus through Sunday, February 26.

You can click here to link to the menus being offered by each. If you do, you'll actually see 25 listings, That's because Mexican Radio is offering a special vegetarian menu in addition  to its main one.

The participating restaurants, several of which are located outside the city of Schenectady:
  • Ambition Cafe
  • Aperitivo Bistro
  • Armondo’s Villa Tuscan Grill
  • Canvas, Cork & Forks
  • Cella Bistro
  • Chez Nous
  • Cornells
  • Johnny’s Restaurant
  • Katie O’Byrne’s
  • Mad Jack Brew Pub at The Van Dyck
  • Manhattan Exchange
  • Mexican Radio
  • More Perreca’s Italian Kitchen
  • Pho Queen
  • Pinhead Susan’s
  • RARE Craft Steak & Cocktail House (formerly Marotta’s Bar-Risto)
  • Sammy’s Burger & Bistro
  • Tops American Grill
  • Zen
Outside the city
  • The Waters Edge Lighthouse, Glenville
  • The Glass Tavern, Glenville
  • Angelo's Tavolo, Scotia
  • Jade Bistro, Scotia
  • Turf Tavern, Scotia

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Another 'best of' restaurant list fails from the beginning

A website called upstatenewyork.com is the latest entity to proclaim a "best of" list of restaurants, this one purportedly covering Upstate's 50 largest cities and towns.

Regular readers of this blog know my opinion about such lists. They generally are based on guesswork, arbitrary placement, wobbly criteria, and often based largely only on readers' "votes." That means, in essence, they are at best a very narrow view cobbled together from only the readers of the particular blogs or websites -- Yelp and TripAdvisor in this case -- who bother to vote, and, at worst, just one more attempt at getting publicity.

Well, this one works on that latter score. After all, I am mentioning it here.

Among the venues the website cited in New York's "50 biggest cities and towns" are everything from fine-dining spots to diners, food carts to hot dog joints, and anything else that shouldn't be judged in competition with each other.

Excellent establishments all, I'm sure, though many people might quibble about them being the absolute  "best" their particular community has to offer. What is perhaps more important to ascertaining whether this overall list actually has any validity is that it claims to represent Upstate's "50 biggest cities and towns."

In reality, it does not.

For starters, the ranking lists the Erie County village of Lancaster as 50th among the "50 biggest cities and towns" Upstate. In fact, Lancaster had a mere 10, 279 residents according to the latest U.S. Census. There are more than 200 Upstate cities, towns and communities that are larger than Lancaster.  So much for "50 biggest."

Going a step deeper into the list we find Amsterdam being represented as the 25th largest Upstate community. In fact, at only 18,206 residents it is nowhere near that level. Colonie, Bethlehem, Guilderland, Clifton Park, Halfmoon, Milton, Glenville, Niskayuna, Rotterdam, and Queensbury all are significantly larger, and that is in the Greater Capital Region alone. Looking across all of Upstate, the number is staggering.

OK, that's enough time spent on debunking yet another flawed "best of" list. To those whose establishments were ignored simply because the basic premise was bad, don't feel left out. For those who were included, enjoy the moment of positive notoriety. Just don't include it in your advertising or you'll look silly.

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3-night whirl to end Bartenders' Guild first-round competition

With the initial first-round test in the books, the next three in the U.S. Bartenders' Guild Albany's competition will be held in rapid succession.

The 7-10 p.m. events, with bartenders from Troy, Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga Springs using Albany Distilling Company's rye and Deathwish vodka to make two drinks each, are:
  • Friday, February 26, Wellington's at the Renaissance, 144 State Street, Albany
  • Saturday, February 27, Aperitivo Bistro, 426 State Street, Schenectady
  • Sunday, February 28, The Tuck, 104 Third Street, Troy
The first event, held at Hamlet & Ghost in Saratoga Springs, was won by Matt Ferguson of the hometown tavern 9 Maple. He will go against the winners of the other first-round events in the finals on Friday, March 10, at Takk House, 55 Third Street in Troy.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Epicurean Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions.


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