This Friday For the Love of Wine, the wine shop that opened a few years ago in Crossgates, will be closing its doors -- temporarily.
Williams and Von Schenkel are planning to open From The Garden, a farm-to-table restaurant and wine cafe, in the former Old House Cafe on Lark Street. They're both sommeliers, but this is their first time serving food -- professionally, at least.
"We're Anthony Bourdain kind of people," says Von Schenkel. "We think of food as kind of an adventure. You always want it to be an experience." They've never run a restaurant before, but that doesn't seem to worry Von Schenkel too much. "We've been cooks in our own home and for years we've been throwing extravagant parties, so it's our first time being a restaurant, but not exactly."
(Photo: Andy Kainz)
But running a restaurant is a far cry from cooking for guests in your home. Kristen Williams says running a wine shop was new to them five years ago, and like they did back then, they plan to keep the scale small at first. "The vision is small right now. Small plates, not grand dinners. And we'll be hiring people who have experience working in kitchens, but it's our vision." The focus at From the Garden will be on local farm foods. "We live out in Westerlo," says Allan Von Schenkel and we're working with about nine farms in our area, so we'll have a lot of really fresh things." Among the farms they'll be working with: Eight Mile Creek Farm and Goats and Gourmets.
Photo: Andy Kainz)
They're hoping to have a reservation based system and a limited menu -- about five menu items at a time, with a separate vegetarian menu. The inspiration behind the cafe is Damon Baehrel's Basement Bistro in Earlton, but Von Schenkel says, less expensive. "We'll only be able to seat about 35 people at time, and the menu will be limited, but we're hoping to be able to offer a $10 entree. I hope it's economically feasible." Some of the entrees they're considering: empanadas using local red tail venison with slow cooked meets and vegetarian fillings, brisket and cheese and chocolate tastings.
The couple just got word that their wine and beer license has been approved. Von Schenkel says they'll be offering an affordable wine list and they're considering bringing in one local craft brewer. He's also looking at doing flights of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The non-alcoholic flights will include items such as lychee drinks and Sicilian lemonade. One of their plans is to offer a free tasting flight with every reservation.
The big focus, says Von Schenkel, will be on local and affordable. He says the wine shop has always been focused on finding the best wine in the $10 to $20 range and they're hoping to do something similar with From the Garden. The restaurant has been in the works for about three years, and employees at For the Love of Wine, whom he describes as their FLOW family, will be working on this new project with them.
Von Schenkel says his biggest concerns, at least right now, are equipment oriented. "Are we buying the right kind of $8,000 oven, the right kind of cuvenee system for the wine. We're talking with a lot of professionals about our plans."
There is, of course, already a wine bar on Lark Street -- just on the next block. Von Schenkel says they're not concerned.
"We're only going to be able to seat 35 or so and our menu will be very limited, so we won't be competing with big places like Yono's. It's great that there are other wine bars in the Capital Region. It would be great if there were five wine bars. The wonderful thing about Lark Street is that people will go to different places."
They're hoping to open From the Garden in January. The plan is to open Wednesday through Sunday evenings, and to extend their hours in the summer.
From the Garden
227 Lark Street
Albany , NY 12210
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