Friday, March 31, 2017

74 years in business, Verdile's finally trying brunch

Closeup from the 1987 film "Moonstruck" of fried bread and eggs. Verdile's will offer it Sunday.
The oldest restaurant in Troy's Lansingburgh section is about to try something for the first time: brunchiano.

Michael Verdile Jr.
That's the term being used for the first-ever brunch service at Verdile’s Restaurant, the venerable spot that is operated by the third generation of the family that founded the business in 1943.

The one-day event, for which reservations are not necessary, is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. this Sunday (4/2), and the Italian-accented menu is a bit different from the average brunch offered in the area. A few examples:

Breakfast pizza; "Moonstruck" eggs (actress Olympia Dukakis' character cooked the fried-bread-and-egg dish in the 1987 movie for which Cher win the Best Actress Oscar); Italian-inspired omelets, etc. Each item, accompanied by Italian home fries and a side of fruit, will be $12. The drinks menu will include Bloody Marys and Italian mimosas.

The restaurant was founded as a tiny lunch spot on 2nd Street by Raphael and Frances Marinucci Verdile. After they moved across the street in 1951 to the present location, their son Michael -- who later also owned and/or operated a variety of other restaurants in the Capital Region -- ran it until his death in 2016. It now is operated by his son, head chef Michael Verdile Jr.

Verdile's is best known for its classic Italian-American menu, tuxedo-clad waiters, and longtime employees such as Vinny Marano who has been in the kitchen for more than three decades.

Verdile’s is located at 572 Second Avenue at 115th Street. Phone: (518) 235-8879.
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New Long Island cider tasting room goes beyond the norm

A look at the main tasting and dining area. (photos provided)
Cideries may briefly have been a poor cousin to wineries and breweries that were more in the mainstream mind and adept at marketing through well-appointed tasting rooms, but that is changing.

Now that cider, which in colonial times and beyond was the go-to adult beverage here and in the UK, has made a tremendous comeback, more and more cideries -- sometimes offshoots of wine- and beer-making operations -- are paying attention to their public face via tasting rooms.

An example of go-big-or-go-home is the Riverhead Ciderhouse, an 8,000-square-foot tasting room that just opened in the Long Island community regarded as the gateway to the East End wine region.

Greg Gove, whose resume includes stints as a winemaker with Hargrave and Pindar vineyards, is the cider master for the operation that offers a wide variety of apple ciders and other apple products along with locally-made beers and wines. He is using New York-grown apples to produce three ciders -- Benjamin’s Best, Razmatazz and Reserve cider.

The tasting room, which offers 24 beverages on tap, has a pair of floor-to-ceiling fireplaces, retail space and a cafe, all with a rustic, brick-accented decor. In addition to the beverages, it offers local produce indigenous to Long Island as part of the “Farm to Fork Revolution,” as well as pizzas, sandwiches and seasonal fare.

The retail space offers local artists' merchandise and such boutique items as clothing, caps and sweatshirts and more. And, to complete the package, there is live in-house entertainment by a range of local musicians as well as two self-playing pianos.

This isn't your grandfather's cider house. And, it's located at 2711 Sound Avenue in the Town of Riverhead hamlet of Calverton. Hours: Open at 11 a.m. and closing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday, 9 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday, and 6 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Phone: (631) 591-0217.

Lounge area near one of the fireplaces.

The twin self-playing pianos.

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Vermont Creamery becomes part of Land O' Lakes

Vermont Creamery, whose products are carried by numerous outlets in the Greater Capital Region, has become part of Big Dairy.

Land O' Lakes has purchased the 33-year-old Websterville, VT, company that put itself up for acquisition because it has experienced a level of growth that made it need a partner to help it realize its business potential. Technically, the Vermont company will become an independently operating subsidiary of Land O' Lakes.

Vermont Creamery's main products are goat cheeses, cultured butters and fresh dairy. In announcing the development, co-founders Allison Hooper and Bob Reese said the company is a "a good fit" for the Minnesota-based butter-maker. And, Land O'Lakes president and CEO Chris Policinski said his company would like to bring the brand to a broader market.

Land O'Lakes officials were in Websterville this morning to meet with about 100 employees. They said they plan to make significant investments in the facilities and will increase both starting and hourly wages and benefits for all employees.
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McDonald's switching to fresh beef ... for one burger ... in 2018

A fresh Quarter Pounder (photo provided)
If you watch any TV you probably have seen those ubiquitous Wendy's ads touting the fact that the chain does not use frozen beef to make its burgers. Apparently, McDonald's officials have, too.

The fast-food chain today announced it will cease using frozen beef patties -- well, for its Quarter Pounders. Everything else will stay as is. And, it will take a while just to make that one change.

The announcement explained that sometime in 2018 employees will begin cooking Quarter Pounders to order and use fresh beef, a change from its 40-year practice. However, the change will not be effective at McDonald's restaurants in Alaska, Hawaii and in airports.

To make this momentous decision, the chain actually spent a year testing fresh beef Quarter Pounders at more than 400 restaurants in Dallas and Tulsa before deciding to expand the practice.

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Student culinary teams vie for college scholarships

Teams of students from New York and Vermont vied for scholarships and other honors in the recent 13th annual ProStart Invitational, held at Monroe College in New Rochelle by the New York State Restaurant Association Ediucational Foundation (NYSRAEF).

The competition is one of the organization's largest events. Thirteen schools from all over the state, and for the first time Vermont, participated in challenges designed to test students'  culinary and restaurant management acumen. More than 100 students, educators and industry professionals were on hand for this year’s competition. The winning teams will compete in the National ProStart Invitational scheduled for April 29-May 30 in Charleston, SC. 

Competition results:
New York Culinary: 

1st, Ulster County BOCES, Port Ewen;  2nd, Oneida Herkimer Madison BOCES, New Hartford; 3rd, Capital Region Career & Technical School, Schoharie.

New York Management: 

1st , Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES, Yorktown Heights; 2, Rockland BOCES, West Nyack; 3rd, Questar III: Columbia Greene Educational Center, Hudson.

Vermont: 

1st, Southwest Vermont Career Development Center, Bennington.

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Update: Crown Grill's final days this week in Saratoga

Scott Brankman
UPDATE 2 (3/30/17): The Crown Grill, which has been in operation since 2013, will end its run after service this Saturday, according to owners Colin and Christel MacLain. They will continue to operate the adjacent Circus Cafe. As I reported earlier, the Crown Grill will be succeeded at a date yet to be announced as the Braeburn Tavern under new owners Scott Brankman and Emily Farnsworth-Brankman who recently closed their Marblehead, MA, restaurant to move to Saratoga.

UPDATE (2/12/17): Two Massachusetts restaurateurs with local ties are in the process of purchasing The Crown Grill, located at 390 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. When they reopen it under their ownership some time in the spring, it will be under the name Braeburn Tavern.

(Originally published 1/26/17)

In the grand days of the British Empire, the term "Jack Tar" was used to refer to seamen in the Royal Navy or merchant fleet. (Those who like Gilbert & Sullivan may recall the song "A British Tar" in their operetta "HMS Pinafore.")

So, for something so very British, it's interesting that a Marblehead, MA, pub called Jack Tar also appends the phrase "American tavern" to its name. We'll see how that translates when its owners sell the spot and move their business to Saratoga Springs, as they announced this week.

Owners Scott Brankman, who studied culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University, and Emily Farnsworth-Brankman, who runs the front of the house, said in their announcement, which does not give a location for their projected Saratoga venture:

" ... (I)t is time for us to move home to New York. We are relocating to Saratoga Springs where we will be opening a new restaurant. It is an exciting change that we have been looking forward to. As well as being closer to our family & the friends we grew up with, we are fortunate to be taking the next step in our career together. We will keep you all updated about our new spot once we are settled in."

If they plan to replicate their Massachusetts restaurant here, do not expect anything particularly British on the menu despite the name. (Their current menu runs along the familiar casual tavern fare, and even their Jack Tar Burger lists "Vermont cheddar and New Hampshire bacon" among its toppings.) The food is described this way: "Chef Scott's seasonal menus specialize in American cuisine, drawing influences from his experiences in kitchens from New York to Colorado to Southern California."

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Star of 'Alice' sitcom planning Columbia Country restaurant

The former Yorkshire Farms restaurant
Although the Arlo Guthrie song says "You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant," that won't be true of a Columbia County restaurant actress Alice Lavin is planning to open -- because it won't have her name on it.

Bakunas and Lavin
Lavin, who played the title role in the television series "Alice" in 1976-85 -- a sitcom set in the fictitious Mel's Diner where Alice worked as a waitress -- and her husband Steve Bakunas plan to renovate the former Yorkshire Farms Restaurant and Tavern property, located at 484 Route 23 in Claverack, after closing on the property next month.

After extensive renovations, they will reopen it as -- no, not Alice's -- Joe's Roadhouse Lounge. They had given some thought to using "Alice" in the name, but switched directions when it was thought that might have some legal complications.

The building currently is home to an antique shop and has not operated as a restaurant for several years after a 30-year run. 

Lavin and Bakunas also own a home in Chatham, about 15 miles north of Claverack. The Hudson Register-Star has a good interview with them about their project, available online.

Lavin (foreground) with the staff of Mel's Diner.

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'Vermont Restaurant Week' boasts a 117-venue lineup

"Vermont Restaurant Week" has 117 restaurants of various types signed up for the April 21-30 event and, as is obvious, like so many "weeks" it will run for more than seven days. Interestingly, the sponsor of the 10-day event is the alternative weekly publication titled Seven Days.

Each restaurant will offer special three-course menus (appetizer, entree, dessert) devised for the event, priced at $20, $30 or $40 per person. Some of the restaurants also will offer lunch specials.

The week also includes a calendar of special food-themed events, and a variety of hotels throughout the state are offering discounted vacation packages to coincide with the event.

The event website is one of the best of its type that I've seen. Not only does it provide access to the participating venues' menus, it categorizes them, explains up-front which is offering which price point, and includes blurbs about what each restaurant style is emphasized.
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'NY State of Rosé' an international tasting event

Fans of rosé wines, and there seem to be more of them all the time judging by various competitions and news items, will have an opportunity to compare those from New York State with those from several other countries during the "NY State of Rosé" tasting event in Manhattan on Thursday, April 27.

The tasting, organized by New York Wine Events, will be held at the Union Square Ballroom from 7 to 10 p.m., with a premium 6 p.m. access reservation available. They promise a line of rosés from New York, France, Italy, Brazil and Slovenia, with several others to be announcd on the website closer to the date of the event.

Winemakers, wineries, and various importers and distributors will be on hand to pour samples and to discuss the wines with attendees.

For those unfamiliar with rosés (pronounced row/zays), that type of wine is created as the skins of red grapes touch the wine for just a brief time. While some red wines ferment for several weeks on their red grape skins, rosé wines are stained red in just hours. The winemaker has total control over the wine's color, removing the red grape skins when the wine reaches the desired shade.

New York's Bridge Lane Wine, Brotherhood Winery, Jamesport Vineyards, The Lenz Winery, Palmer Vineyards, Sannino Vineyard, and Wolffer Estate Vineyard with its rosé cider will participate; 13th & Third Wines will pour its California selection with New York roots; Maiden + Liberty will present a French-American rosé; Uncork Brazil will feature the country's Miolo Wine Group and Cave Geisse Winery, plus a bonus rosé from South Africa's DeBos Handpicked Vineyards; Laureate Imports will pour a Slovenian selection and XV Exclusives will sample rosés from France and Italy.

"Rosés have re-emerged as a summer selection of choice by millennial drinkers as well as other age groups who have already enjoyed the wine's flavorful, refreshing taste throughout the years," said Sam Kimball, founder of New York Wine Events. "We've designed this boutique tasting around a sampling of top global selections as well as some amazing domestic rosés that guests can sample and chat about directly with the winemakers, for a truly personal experience."

 Light catered fare will include bread, cheese and cracker selections to accompany the wines. Additionally, New York artisanal food companies Beecher's Handmade Cheese, Ends Meat, and Drunken Fruit will be sampling their specialties and also have full-size items on hand for guests to purchase.

Tickets, available online, start at $49 with early admission priced at $89. The Union Square Ballroom is located at 27 Union Square West (between 15th and 16th streets), just off Union Square Park.
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Epicurean Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 



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Burger 21 offering customers a shot at free burgers

The Burger 21 chain will be offering free burgers for some customers in May.

Any customer who makes a purchase of at least $6 between May 8 and May 11 and scans a loyalty receipt will receive a chit for a free Burger 101, valid through May 28 which is -- ta dah! -- National Hamburger Day. A Burger 101 is a traditional hamburger made with certified Angus Beef, served with lettuce and tomato on a toasted brioche bun.

“While we pride ourselves on offering one of the most diverse burger menus in the country, there is still time to enjoy a classic,” says corporate chef Mike Remes.

Burger 21 offers 10 different beef burger patty options, as well as, chicken, seafood, turkey and veggie burgers along with chicken tenders, hot dogs and salads.

The lone venue in the Capital Region is at 622 New Loudon Road (Route 9) in Latham. Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Phone: (518) 218-6406.
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Au Bon Pain adds spring items to menu

The Au Bon Pain cafe bakery chain, which has three of its Capital Region locations in Albany's Empire State Plaza, today unveiled several new menu items for spring.

Its goal is to provide a healthier set of choices. Among them, a new sprouted grain roll  available with the Signature Farmhouse Omelet breakfast sandwich and Turkey Swiss BLT, as well as the nostalgia-inspired Strawberry Bon Tart.The menu will be available through June 12.

“As Au Bon Pain continues to create our own unique twists to our seasonal menus, we always keep it top of mind our customers want options that make them feel good, whether it’s something fresh and healthy or buttery and indulgent,” says executive chef, Katherine See. “We strive to create a balance in our cafés, starting with high-quality ingredients for nutritious and well-balanced meals, but we also know no one wants to live on greens alone, so we’re having fun with items that can satisfy a sweet tooth as well."

In addition to the Albany locations, open weekdays only, Au Bon Pain also has a venue in the Glens Falls Hospital.
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Update: Ex-Chubby's site in Schenectady to become library

The controversial site (Gazette photo)
UPDATE (3/27/17): Schenectady County officials today announced that a former controversial store will be razed to make room for a new library. It had been under consideration to be a pizza venue, but the county -- which owns an adjacent building -- is acquiring it and will demolish both buildings. 

(Originally published 3/6/17)

What's in a name? Plenty, especially in the food world.

Say "Chubby's" in Troy, for example, and it conjures memories of a tiny group of sub shops that lasted until just a few years ago and fed a lot of satisfied customers over the years.

But, say "Chubby's"  in Schenectady's Mount Pleasant neighborhood and what comes to mind is a convenience store that generated more than 500 public safety calls over a nine-month period in 2015 and has been closed for months.

Now comes word that a local businessman is proposing to reopen the controversial Crane Street location as a pizza shop and convenience store called Yankee Pizza & Deli. The Daily Gazette has a nice story on the controversial plan. You can read it here.

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Capital Bistro's new head chef unveils his menu

Matthew Hughes
Matthew Hughes obviously is a bistro kind of guy. The former New World Bistro Bar sous chef now is heading the kitchen at Capital Bistro, where a new menu debuts today.

Says co-owner Chris Pratt, "I am so excited to welcome our new chef ... Matt is a longtime Albany cook who has worked alongside some of Albany's finest chefs. ... Matt has designed a new menu that blends old and new cuisine to create a true bistro menu. He is also very passionate about sourcing locally and utilizing sustainable produce, meats, and fish."

There are several dishes on the new menu that seem to have become a requirement for bistros everywhere these days -- poutine and crispy pork belly, for example. But, among other more interesting-sounding offerings are a short rib Stroganoff, an orange marinated hanger steak with a bacon and sweet potato mash, and an unusual trout saltimbocca.

Capital Bistro is located at 55 North Pearl Street in Albany. Hours: from 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday. Phone: (518) 694-3122.
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2 cafe rehab projects on Troy Planning Commission agenda

Former Uncle Sam's House
A pair of proposed cafes and a convenience store/deli are on this week's agenda of the Troy Planning Commission. Both need to go through the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and Site Plan Review processes.

The first cafe proposal, from Kyle Engstrom, would convert office space at 40 River Street to a cafe and four dwelling units. The building was headquarters of the community gardens organization Capital Roots until it moved in 2014.

Engstrom is an architect from Brooklyn who was in the news several years ago when he and his wife Graciela Monroy, also an architect, purchased the former Casale's Tavern building in Troy's Little Italy neighborhood as a rehab project.

The second cafe proposal, from John Ambuhl, would be a cafe and "apartment fit up" at 2423 5th Avenue. The limestone-faced Beaux Arts-style building, just north of the Collar City Bridge, has had a number of uses since its construction in 1914, including being home to the Seton Day Nursery and to Uncle Sam's House, a facility for low-income military veterans.

Ambuhl, who works in information technology for the New York State Teachers Retirement System, has rehabbed several buildings in Troy. When he gets this one completed his wife,  Susan M. Dunckel, will be moving her Sweet Sues business in. She tells me Josh Coletto of the Chefs' Consortium and formerly chef at Finnbar's Pub in Troy "has agreed to help with the menu and event planning."

The convenience store being proposed by Naseem Tariq of Waterford involves conversion of the former Sue's Place diner at 668 Second Avenue, locally known for the "Heart of Lansingburgh" sign hanging out front.

The Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. this Wednesday in the fifth-floor City Council Chambers in City Hall, 433 River Street.

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Brewpub part of latest Troy warehouse renovation project

A brewpub and apartments are targeted for this former paint factory.

Another brewpub is in the works as part of a multi-use renovation of yet one more former warehouse in Troy, a city known for such conversions and for a growing number of such drinking establishments.

This one is located in the North Central neighborhood at 669 River Street, on the north side of the street between Middleburgh and North streets. If all goes well with the estimated $2 million project -- still in the conceptual stage, but expected to also include 13 apartments and/or offices on the upper floors -- it will join the neighboring The Hangar On the Hudson event and concert space and The Ale House as part of an embryonic entertainment neighborhood.

But, even if all the necessary permitting goes through quickly, don't get ready to drop in for a cold one anytime soon. The company that handled the sale of the 30,000-square-foot brick structure advertised it as "without heat, electric, plumbing and in need of serious repair and rehabilitation. It is not a property for an inexperienced builder/developer/users." At one time, the building was home to the William Connors Paint Manufacturing Co.

The city's Zoning Board recently approved an application from a Cohoes business entity called 669 River Street LLC for a major variance for parking. And, the full project is on the Planning Board's Wednesday agenda. The LLC is a partnership of Mike Phinney and John Haynes, who are partners in The Local Pub and Teahouse in Saratoga Springs, and Brian McCandless.

The Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. this Wednesday in the fifth-floor City Council Chambers in City Hall, 433 River Street.

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Update: Another Jersey Mike's sub shop opens locally

UPDATE (3/27/17): The latest Jersey Mike's sub shop has opened at 3057 Route 50, Saratoga Springs. The franchise owner is Jonathan Trager.

(Originally published 1/27/16)

How strong is the Jersey Mike's sandwich shop chain that just entered the Capital Region? Pretty darned strong, according to a major industry publication.

According to QSR, "Jersey Mike’s Subs, known for its authentic fresh sliced/fresh grilled subs, continued its strong growth in 2015, opening 197 new locations around the country and exceeding the 1,000-unit mark. Following its successful recipe of deliberate, well-considered expansion, Jersey Mike’s has more than doubled in size in just three years."

Venues in Glenmont and Clifton Park are among those new units. The chain, which began in 1956, expects to double its size again by 2019.

"In 2015, Jersey Mike’s continued attracting experienced franchisees, awarding 97 territories representing nearly 200 restaurants. More than 70% of the territories awarded went to existing owners, the first time that multi-unit operators outnumbered single-unit franchisees in the Jersey Mike’s system. ... [The company]  also continued seeing success with its nontraditional development strategy, awarding and opening its first casino location at the popular Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. The company also opened several university sites on New Jersey campuses."
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Chain links

Your connections to news items about chains operating in the Greater Capital Region:
Boston Market introduces new rotisserie chicken flavor

Study: Chick-fil-A is still the king of customer service

Chili's names new EVP to lead culinary innovation
RBI expects to complete Popeyes purchase Monday

Sonic's Lil’ Doggies and Lil’ Chickies are back

Dunkin' unveils spring flavors, including coconut crème pie
Denny’s introduces new craft burgers in limited-time menu
Red Robin offering salmon burger, entrée for limited time

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

There's wisdom in a bumper sticker


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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Crossgates hotel plan would kill a Ted's Fish Fry location

Fans of the local Ted's Fish Fry group will have one less location to visit if the owner of Crossgates Mall has its way.

Pyramid Cos. has submitted plans to build a five-story hotel adjacent to the mall across Western Avenue from the Beth Abraham Jacob Cemetery. Clearing the site for hotel construction would require demolishing the Ted’s Fish Fry on Western and an adjacent brick house, according to what was revealed at a meeting of the Guilderland Planning Board this week.

There are four other Ted's locations in the Capital Region: 203 Wolf Road, which is only minutes from the Guilderland location, 447 3rd Avenue in Watervliet, 636 Route 9 in Latham, 250 2nd Avenue in Troy, and 700 Hoosick Road in Brunswick.

Ted’s Fish Fry is a family-owned business that was founded more than 60 years ago by Ted Deeb, and now run by his son S.K. Deeb. The company website has a thorough and interesting history of the business.
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Burlington pizzeria expands -- by buying 2 neighbors

From SevenDays.com
The owners of Pizzeria Verità, a popular Italian restaurant on St. Paul Street in Burlington, VT,  have been looking to expand their business for some time.
They checked out possibilities in Cincinnati and Portland, ME, among other places, co-owner Leslie McCrorey Wells told Seven Days. Then they looked at a bit closer to home — next door — and made a deal.

Wells and her business partner, John Rao, are buying neighboring Trattoria Delia and Sotto Enoteca from Tom and Lori Delia. ... The new owners expect to take over the neighboring establishments in the second week of April, according to Wells.
Go here for the full story.
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Queensbury country store seeks OK to serve wine, beer

From The Post-Star
QUEENSBURY -- Stores may soon be allowed to serve wine and beer in the neighborhood commercial zones in response to a proposal from The Cleverdale Country Store. ...

The store owner is considering ways in which the store could serve its wine and locally brewed beers, which are sold by the bottle there now. She envisions visitors sipping on a new deck, enjoying the outdoors.

"We're not considering being a tavern by any means," said owner Meghan Cesari. "I just want to serve beer and wine with lunch and dinner. There will be no bar in here."

She asked the town about the zoning restrictions and learned that she wouldn't be allowed to serve alcohol unless the zone changes. But she got support from the board for her proposal.
Go here for the full story.
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Friday, March 24, 2017

Albany food court project gets another vendor

The 'Nipper' building (drawings provided)
The Hudson Valley BBQ Co. caterer and food wholesaler will set up operations in The Good Market, the food court under development in Albany's Warehouse District.

It is the fifth vendor announced for the market that will be on the ground floor of the Broadway warehouse building readily identified by the statue of Nipper, the RCA dog, that adorns its roof. The others are Fin - Your Fishmonger, La Empanada Llama, Stacks Espresso Bar, and Mugzy's Barkery, maker of organic dog treats.

According to the Hudson Valley BBQ business statement, "To celebrate the change in food focus, we have a huge dedication to vegan and other non-meat options. Any item on our menu can be made vegan, gluten free, or vegetarian."

Here are a few of the latest sketches for the design of The Good Market -- or "Good Mrkt" as some of its signage says it.



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Expanded Hamptons Restaurant Week now called 'East End'

Anyone headed to Long Island in the next week may want to take in the "East End Restaurant Week," an eight-day restaurant promotion even that will run from this Sunday through the following Sunday, April 2.

This event is a renamed and expanded version of "Hamptons Restaurant Week," which was held the previous 14 years. Its original purpose was to generate additional business for restaurants in that winery-centric section of Long Island during a traditionally slow period and as a kick start to the spring season. What began as a South Fork promotion has grown to encompass all of the East End, including the North Fork.

"We've always received a tremendous amount of support from the North Fork," says LIRHG President Steve Haweeli, "so it's time we recognize that and show our appreciation for all restaurateurs involved."

All participating restaurants will offer a three-course prix fixe meal for $28.95 all night (may be offered only until 7 p.m. The organizers have an easily searchable feature on the event website to help visitors search for possibilities by town, cuisine, or specific restaurant name.

A number of lodging facilities in the area are offering a minimum 10% discount during the period.

Technically, the East End consists of the five townships at the eastern end of Suffolk County --  namely Riverhead, Southampton (which includes Westhampton), Southold, Shelter Island, and East Hampton.

The official East End of Long Island

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Carrabba's expands its expanded food-and-drink offerings

Carrabba's Italian Grill, which recently debuted a new, expanded menu, has added three possibilities to its wine-and-food tasting selections.

Each item, at various price points, offers three wine samples plus a specific small plate. Then, if you want to order a full glass of wine from among those sampled, you get a nine-ounce pour at the six-ounce price.

The offerings:
Italian Classics -- Riondo Prosecco, Pieropan Soave , Santa Cristina Chianti Superiore, paired with arancini (stuffed rice balls), $9.99.

World of Wine -- Belleruche Rosé, Layer Cake Malbec, CasaSmith Barbera, paired with grilled asparagus with prosciutto, $11.99.

Uncork California -- Coppola Votre Santé Pinot Noir, Joel Gott Zinfandel, Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon, paired with meatballs and ricotta, $12.99.
In the Capital Region, Carrabba's is located at 675 Troy Schenectady Road (Route 7). Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Phone: (518) 785-8886.
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Epicurean Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 



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Remember Ground Round? It still is alive and well

Remember the Ground Round restaurant chain that once upon a time had a strong presence in the Greater Capital Region? Its former locations here now are home to car dealerships, vacant buildings, etc. However, that doesn't mean it no longer exists. Just look east to Rutland, VT.

A new Ground Round Grill & Bar will replace the Ponderosa Steakhouse on Route 7 in front of the Diamond Run Mall.

"The Ground Round in Rutland is one of three new units we expect to open this year, and will feature many of our exciting new facility design elements, and our newly launched menu of products and beverages," said Jack Crawford, president and CEO of the Ground Round Independent Owners Cooperative, LLC.

That organization is a franchisee-owned and -led cooperative with headquarters in Freeport, ME. It  operates Ground Round restaurants in 10 states throughout the Northeast and Midwest. In New York, they are located Upstate in Plattsburgh and Johnson City, and in Brookhaven, Long Island.
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Oscar's in Colonie joins the very busy world of pizzerias

What's so special about the opening of yet another local pizzeria? If you Google the word "pizzeria" you get 110 million results (honest). But, if you google the name "Oscar's Pizza" you get 393,000 results (yep, checked that, too). So, I guess in the context of the global world of pizza joints that makes it relatively special.

The newest Oscar's is located at 1686 Central Avenue in Colonie, which had been the location of Phoenicians Restaurant until owner Robert Rahal moved it to larger and fancier quarters at 71 Fuller Road and renamed it Phoenicians Mediterranean Palace.

Although described as a pizza place, the Oscar's menu offers a lot more, such as gyros, burgers, a dozen salads, wings, subs, club and other sandwiches, and on and on.

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., till 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Delivery is available.Phone: (518) 452-3333.
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Niagara Wine Trail plans 2-weekend tasting

Members of the Niagara Wine Trail are planning a two-weekend "Taste of the Trail" event for April to help celebrate its 15th anniversary.

Although not every member is involved in both the April 22-23 and 29-30 weekends, most are. The self-guided event allows visitors to start at any of the venues, then go on to others as they desire. Reservations, accepted through the Thursday before each weekend, are $25 for one weekend or $40 for two. At the wineries the days of the event, prices jump to $30 and $45 per person.

The suggested plan is to explore half the trail each weekend to maximize the variety of foods sampled with suggested wine pairings from each winery's collection.

A few examples of what will be served:
810 Meadworks -- Swedish meatballs paired with Sweet Devotion black currant mead
Arrowhead Spring Vineyards -- Artisanal grilled cheese bites paired with Arrowhead Red.
Flight of Five Winery -- Citrus Salad (orange, grapefruit, pineapple) with orange poppy dressing, paired with Locktender Gruner Veltliner or Lock 69 wines
Schwenk Wine Cellars -- Chocolate butterscotch bars served with dry reds
Other participating venues include A Gust of Sun Winery Spencerport and A Gust of Sun Winery Ransomville, Freedom Run Winery, Lake Ontario Winery, Leonard Oakes Estate Winery, Salamanca Winery, Spring Lake Winery, Vizcarra Vineyards, BlackBird Cider Works, Black Willow Winery, Chateau Niagara Winery, Honeymoon Trail Winery, Long Cliff Winery & Vineyards, Midnight Run Wine Cellars, Niagara Landing Wine Cellars, The Winery at Marjim Manor, Schulze Vineyards & Winery, and Victorianbourg Wine Estate. Go here for a look at the individual offerings revealed so far.

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17 venues lined up for Downtown Albany Restaurant Week

17 restaurants. 3 courses. $20.17. That pretty much sums up "Downtown Albany Restaurant Week," which will run from Saturday, April 1, through Friday, April 7.

The special menus will vary from venue to venue.And, as I notged in an earlier posting, several of the restaurants will participate in an even deeper discount "Student Night" on Monday, April 3. Students with valid ID will dine for $17.77.

Participating restaurants:
  • ama cocina
  • Cafe Capriccio 
  • The Capital Bistro
  • Charter at Hilton Albany 
  • C.H. Evans Brewing at the Albany Pump Station
  • City Beer Hall
  • Dawn's Victory Sports Cafe
  • The Hollow Bar + Kitchen
  • Hudson Harbor Steak & Seafood 
  • Jack's Oyster House
  • LaSerre
  • Merry Monk
  • The Olde English Pub & Pantry
  • Parish Public House
  • Public House 42
  • V&R Italian Ristorante
  • Wellington's  
You can get a look at the special menu offerings by clicking here.
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Keuka Lake Wine Trail greets spring with 'Tapas & Wine'

Once the leftover snow banks recede, most people are anxious to get out and travel a bit. Members of the Keuka Lake Wine Trail are counting on getting an early share of that traffic.

That will begin with a "Tapas & Wine Weekend" set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 8-9. It's a self-guided tour with visitors beginning at any point on the Trail, picking up a souvenir tasting glass and a food-and-wine sample before moving on to other venues.

Each winery will prepare savory and sweet bites with suggested pairings. Twenty-eight wine samples and more than a dozen food samples will be offered. A few examples:
Keuka Spring -- Crostini with beef tenderloin, red peppers, and cilantro pesto mayonnaise; Manchego cheese, marinated mushrooms, and garlic stuffed olives.

McGregor Vineyard -- Spanish tortilla filled with caramelized onions and roasted garlic, crusty French bread, cinnamon-sugar churro.

Point of the Bluff -- Smoked sausage tartlet.

Vineyard View -- Bacon-wrapped figs and chorizo and garbanzo puree with grilled flatbread.
Other participating wineries are Heron Hill, Hunt Country, and Ravines.

Ticket options, including for designated drivers, range from $14 to $25 and are available online.
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jewish food taking center stage this weekend

Author Tina Wasserman
This is a weekend putting Jewish food in the spotlight.

The major event is the 14th annual Jewish Food Festival, set for Sunday in Schenectady, that will feature food writer and cookbook author Tina Wasserman.

The other event is the annual Passover open house at Price Chopper’s Colonie supermarket, 1892 Central Avenue, set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. It will showcase the more than 1,000 kosher-for-Passover products available at the store, with samples and cooking tips from kosher catering experts. (This year, Passover will begin on Tuesday, April 11.)

Wasserman, who holds degrees in foods and education from Syracuse and New York universities, is the best-selling author of "Entree to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora" and "Entrée to Judaism for Families: Cooking and Kitchen Conversations with Children." She also is a cooking instructor, longtime columnist for Reform Judaism magazine and presently food editor for ReformJudaism.org. As a prequel to the festival, a 5:30 p.m. Shabbat dinner on Friday will feature dishes from her cookbooks. (The dinner is limited to 20 guests.)

Then festival itself, a creation of Congregation Gates of Heaven, will run from noon to 3 p.m. and feature a no-limits sampling of traditional and modern Jewish foods prepared by restaurants, caterers, and members of the Gates synagogue family.

Admission is $20 for adults, $ for children 13 to 17, and free for anyone 12 and younger. Anyone bringing three or more non-peerishable food items, which will be donated to the Northeast Regional Food Bank, will receive a $5 admission discount.

The schedule includes a cooking workshop, demonstrations and contests. The details are available online.

Congregation Gates of Heaven is located at 852 Ashmore Avenue in Schenectady, just off Eastern Parkway. Phone: (518) 374-8173.

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Update: Senate OKs new wine ice cream size proposal

Home of New York's wine ice cream.
UPDATE (3/22/17): 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.

(Originally published 2/18/17)

From the Rome Sentinel
Legislation that would allow fans of wine ice creams to enjoy their treats in smaller containers has been introduced by State Senator Joseph A. Griffo.

Mercer’s Dairy, located on Route 12 in Boonville, Oneida County, is known for its wine-infused ice cream line, which includes cherry merlot, chocolate cabernet, lemon sparkling, peach white zinfandel and red raspberry chardonnay, among others.

A pioneer in this segment of the ice cream market, it developed the adult treat in 2006. It is sold in the U.S. and foreign countries. Griffo’s bill would do away with a New York State Agriculture and Markets Deprtment requirement that the dessert be sold in containers of at least one pint.

“Every event or venue we’ve had access to has been asking for smaller Dixie cups for people to eat wine ice cream out of, since many people don’t come to these venues looking to carry around pints of ice cream,” said Roxaina Hurlburt, Mercer’s director of marketing. “But, out of the 22 states we sell in, New York is the only state that has size restrictions on wine ice cream.”
Go here for the full story.
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Epicurean Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 




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Local entries fare well in U.S. Cheese Championships

From the Glens Falls Post-Star
Nettle Meadow Farm & Cheese Company earned a "best in class,"  a second place and several other awards ... at the U.S. Cheese Championships at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. ...This year's event drew 2,303 entries from 33 states. ...

Originally founded as a goat farm in 1990, Nettle Meadow starting raising sheep in 2007 and has grown to a 70-acre dairy with more than 350 goats and sheep. Nettle Meadow distributes cheeses locally and nationally, and the farm is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for cheese sales. Farm tours are given at noon on Saturdays.
Go here for the full story.
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Monday, March 20, 2017

Troy's Bootleggers planning a slammin' brunch event

The title isn't grammatical, and its different versions can be confusing, but it does sound tasty.

It's the "Brunch & Brew's Fest 2" at Bootleggers on Broadway in Troy.

(Or, Bootlegger's, or  Bootlegger's Bar & Grill, depending on where you look it up. Please, guys, pick one, drop the apostrophe, and end the angst.)

Oh, and some promotion materials also refer to the event as the "‎Deep House Brunch & Brew Fest." So, pardon my confusion.

Tickets for the event, available online, are $40 in advance or $45 at the door when it begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 8. The lineup of attractions includes an all-you-can-eat brunch, unlimited sampling of beers from more than a dozen breweries including Brown's Brewing, Lake Placid and Ommegang; mimosas, a Bloody Mary bar featuring Pick Six vodka, and various other drinks samples.

Bootleggers, founded in 2011, is located in the historic Hendrick Hudson Building at 200 Broadway in downtown Troy. Phone: (518) 874-4475.
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Great Bay restaurant ends a run that began as a market in '73

Great  Bay's final owners (photo provided)
The average price of a house was $9,900, the last American troops left Vietnam, the Watergate hearings were conducted, the now-iconic Sydney Opera House opened ... And, the Great Bay Clam Co. opened.

Now, those headlines are part of history, and so is the Great Bay Clam Co.

Ellen and Ralph Melo, who have owned the business since 2005 under the name Great Bay Seafood Co., closed it several weeks ago, ending a 44-year existence.

The business, named for the source of the Long Island clams it featured, was founded in 1973 on Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs by Harold Hotmer as an offshoot of his Fort Edward fish market.

The city's urban renewal imperatives eventually led Hotmer to move the market to a site on West Avenue where he added a restaurant component to the business. In April 1989, he moved again, this time to 2149 Doubleday Avenue, Ballston Spa, where The Great Bay Clam Company operated as a restaurant without a market. Hotmer sold the business to the Melos in 2005.

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A touch of the Himalayas comes to Winooski, VT

Winooski near U. Vermont
Not a lot of restaurateurs hail from the tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan. Leave it to eclectic Vermont to break that mold.

Case in point, Man Gurung. He has opened Manuna Asian Kitchen in Winooski after a strenuous journey as a refugee from his homeland.

According to the publication Seven Days, "less than two years after replacing Dharshan Namaste Asian Deli the Spice Traders' Kitchen closed in February. ...  After weeks of concerned local chatter, Namuna Asian Kitchen began serving noodles, dumplings, curries and pan-Asian finger snacks in the space last weekend."

Gurung fled his native Bhutan in the 1990s, according to the publication, "part of a wave of refugees who departed that country when the government began expelling people of Nepali descent after its 1988 census. Gurung lived in a refugee camp in Nepal for almost two decades before immigrating to Vermont six years ago. While Gurung has worked as a baker and prep cook in the past, Namuna is his first restaurant."

Gurung's wife worked in the storefront years ag, when it was Dharshan Namaste Asian Deli. His offerings are pan-Asian, including Vietnamese, Nepali, Bhutanese, Indian and other dishes.

Manuna Asian Kitchen is located at 212 Main Street in Winooski. Phone: (802) 654-8000.
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A look at Vermont's cocktail-and-food pairings scene

Monday is the first day of spring. No matter how the weather treats us over the next few weeks, we're on the down slope toward nice weather, and that means denizens of the Greater Capital Region will begin venturing farther afield for food and drink in places like southern Vermont, western Massachusetts, central New York, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, etc.

Seven Days, the "alternative" weekly -- I always question that knee-jerk description for anything published outside the mainstream media, but it seems to be acceptable to a lot of people -- that does such a good job of covering the Vermont foodie scene, has taken a solid look at the current cocktail-and-food pairing trend.

Here is how Seven Days writer Suzanne Podhaizer approaches the topic:
"The veggie hash arrived five courses into a brunch-time cocktail pairing at Misery Loves Co. in Winooski -- hunks of mushroom and cauliflower and strips of roasted bell pepper and onion, all mounded on a smear of verdant pesto. A pair of orange-yolked eggs slumped off the vegetables like the melting clocks in Salvador Dali's 'The Persistence of Memory.'

"At my elbow was an unusual drink called 'A Walk in the Woods.' Made of gin, juniper, the bitter aperitif Byrrh and reduced mushroom stock, the earthy, woodsy concoction was a perfect complement to the hash. The fungus in the drink picked up the fungus in the food. The bitter components cut through the fat from the egg yolks, just as the latter streaked gold into the pesto's green.

"Misery is one of a handful of Burlington-area restaurants that have made an art of creating food-friendly cocktails, with elements that echo ingredients on the plate or sharply counterpoint them. Other local purveyors of such drinks -- which can be served alone or alongside a meal -- include the Inn at Shelburne Farms, ArtsRiot and Juniper at Hotel Vermont. A decade ago, pairing beer with food -- instead of wine -- was edgy. More recently, serving mixed drinks with meals has become a trend written up in places such as Epicurious.com and Food & Wine. Men's Fitness even described the creation of apt food and booze pairings as a surefire seduction technique (if only!)"
Go here for her full report.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Irish pub may may succeed Schenectady's City Squire tavern

The now-closed tavern.
Schenectady's City Squire tavern, closed for the past 2 1/2 years, may not be resuscitated, but its 1018 Keyes Avenue location may become home to an Irish-style pub.

According to a report today in The Daily Gazette, "The Lecce Group, in a joint venture with John and Katrina Isopo, hope to close on the purchase of the former City Squire, tear it down and build an Irish pub serving light fare and specialty craft beers for lunch and dinner. “

Lecce Group President and CEO Lou Lecce told the newspaper, “This has been a restaurant for decades and we’ve heard from the community that they want to see it reopened. They miss the local Irish pub where you can just go watch the football game and grab something to eat.”

Go here for the full story.
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Glens Falls Brew Fest creates 'Taps & Apps' prequel

You've heard of "after parties," of course, but what about a "before party"? There's one coming up in Glens Falls.

It's a 50-ticket "Taps & Apps" event that will be held on Friday, March 31, the day before the annual Glens Falls Brewfest. It's a craft beer and seven-appetizer tasting put together by Mean Max Brew Works and the SUNY Adirondack culinary program. It will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Queensbury Hotel, 88 Ridge Street. Tickets are on sale now at Mean Max, 193 Glen Street.

Then, from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, April 1, also at the Queensbury, the Glens Falls Brewfest will offer tastings of beers, wines and ciders from regional and and national producers although a list of participating makers has not yet been revealed. Tickets, available online, are $40 in advance and $50 at the door. Proceeds benefit Adirondack Theatre Festival and the Feeder Canal Alliance.

In addition to the beverages, live music will be provided, along with free food samples while supplies last from SUNY Adirondack, Davidson Brothers Restaurant & Brewery, 190 Grille + Cinema, Cooper's Cave Ale Company, Carl R's, and the host hotel.
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