Items tagged with 'food'
It takes a lot of chutzpah to start a hotdog joint in the Capital Region.
We know our hotdogs, especially mini dogs. While other parts of the state have their own spins on hotdogs -- Plattsburgh: Michigans, Syracuse: white hots, New York City: dirty water dogs -- mini dogs are the exclusive claim of the Capital Region. Others try to replicate, but few meet the standards we find here.
And as it is, we already have enough mini dog eateries to keep us well-stocked. From Famous Lunch to Ted's Fish Fry, one doesn't have to look far to find a decent mini dog.
But now there is one more: Pete's Pups, in Rotterdam. And while it may be easy to overlook a new kid in preference for an experienced veteran, this underdog doesn't just bark, it bites with full force, too.
At its last scheduled public meeting Monday the state's Fast Food Wage Board didn't recommend a specific increase in the minimum wage for fast food workers in the state -- but its members' comments pointed toward them eventually recommending a significantly higher rate.
"There's no question in mind that we need a very substantial increase in the minimum wage," board member Kevin Ryan, the chairman and founder of the online shopping site Gilt, said.
"When you look at the industry as a whole in this state, we really should be looking at one wage rate for the state, and that should be $15 and that should be as soon as possible," said board member Mike Fishman, the secretary treasurer of Service Employees International Union.
The fast food wage board was empaneled by the state Department of Labor at Andrew Cuomo's direction in May to consider raising the minimum wage in the industry. The Cuomo admin says the board's recommendation can be enacted without legislation.
The new Sonic in Latham opens today, location announced on its Facebook page. It's on Route 7 at Wade Road (map). Hours are 10 am to 10 pm this Monday -- regular hours, 6:30 am to midnight, start Tuesday.
This week is a "soft" opening for the location. There's a grand opening lined up for next week.
Latham is the fast food chain's first location in the Capital Region. It's said previously it has plans to open a total of eight locations around the area.
In years past Sonic often got mentioned as a chain people would like to see here. Maybe they were suffering from limeade deficiency.
By the way: Chick-fil-A has officially mentioned that it's scouting the Albany area for potential sites. [Biz Review]
New York State produced more than 600,000 gallons of maple syrup this past spring, according to numbers from the US Department of Agriculture. That's good for #2 in the nation. And the Cuomo admin says that's the state's highest total in 70 years.
The sappy record is especially notable because this past maple syrup season was just 26 days long. It was 40 days long when the state set its last "modern" record in 2013.
So, what's responsible for the sweet success? From a Cuomo admin press release:
The amount produced is the most since 1944, the last year before the beginning of a long drop-off in the number of tree taps and the yield of syrup per tap. New York's resurgence began in 2008 as vacuum pumping systems began to replace the metal tree taps and hanging buckets that have signified maple syrup farming for centuries.
The New York State Maple Producers Association estimates that 60 percent of maple farms, including most of the larger farms of more than 500 taps, use vacuum systems to collect raw sap. The modern vacuum system is easier for producers to maintain, which has helped increase production per tap. The average tree tap produced a little more than one quart of syrup this year, though some large farms are seeing yields of a half-gallon or more.
New York State is still far behind Vermont for the nation's top spot for maple syrup production. The Green Mountain State produced 1.39 million gallons this spring, according to USDA. (The tiny state's pancake industry is straining under the pressure to keep up.)
Vermont maple syrup is an interesting case because the state has been experiencing some sort of Maple Miracle over the last decade. So much so that Quebec -- the Saudi Arabia of maple syrup -- has been warily eyeing its neighbor to the south.
Lauren has set out to survey a handful of brunch spots around the Capital Region for a short series.
Every once in a while there is a popular local business that completely slips under my radar. As a dedicated Trojan, I'm embarrassed to say that Carmen's Café has evaded me. Even though Carmen's has a devoted following, and has been voted "best brunch" in a few local polls, I made my first visit this summer.
Carmen's is a cozy Cuban/Spanish restaurant located on the corner of a quiet residential block just to the southwest of Washington Park in Troy, so it's probably not the sort of spot a lot of people will just happen upon. You have to go looking for it, as I did recently, in search of delicious brunch.
I have heard people say the Capital Region lacks in great food. I'm telling you that statement is false. Great food doesn't have to mean high-end haute cuisine. Not everything must be processed through a sous vide machine and dolloped with foam to be "good."
What we do have here in the Capital Region are some wonderful hidden gems of ethnic, street-inspired eats. We might not get every type of regional cuisine right each time, but we certainly have some shining stars.
And the Ethiopian platter at Umana is one example.
Strawberry season is here! Many local farms have recently opened for pick-your-own strawberries, or will be very shortly.
It seems like there's a fair amount of variability across farms this year -- some have gotten an early jump and others are still waiting for their berries. If we get a few sunny days following this rain, things could move along quickly.
A typical strawberry season at many farms in this area only lasts a few weeks, though some farms have strawberries for longer stretches -- even most of the summer -- because their fields include a range of varieties that produce at different times. When you're at the farm stand, ask about the varieties the farms are growing. In our experience people are happy to talk about what's available, for how long, and why. (It's also a good idea to call ahead or check the website before heading out.)
Here are a handful of places in the greater Capital Region that you can pick your own strawberries. Know of a good place not on this list? Please share!
Lauren has set out to survey a handful of brunch spots around the Capital Region for a short series. Got a suggestion for a place to check out? Email us, or drop the suggestion in the comments.
To me, brunch is the ideal meal. Depending on your wishes, brunch can be a sweet breakfast or a savory lunch. You can drink alcohol in the early afternoon without judgment. And it's perfectly acceptable to brunch with your best friend as well as your grandfather.
One of my favorite brunches in this area is at City Beer Hall in Albany, where a range of people come to enjoy the best meal of the week. (Because it's brunch.)
And the good news is that your first drink is included.
For as long as I can remember (my downtown Albany memory only stretches 11 years back), there has always been an eatery in the One Commerce Plaza building on Washington Avenue, across from the Alfred E. Smith building. But I don't remember anyone going there, or suggesting we stop there when I worked in politics, after a day lobbying at the Capitol.
Even the shiny exterior of the building wasn't enough to draw me inside. The neon-colored sign? Nope, still never went in. It just seemed so non-descript, even as a modern structure placed in the midst of buildings with Grecian columns and centuries-old brick and limestone.
It took me a few years away from that scene -- and a picture on Instagram -- to make me change my stance and give A Better Bite a try.
That photo? Naan pizza.
The first Albany Tea Festival is set for this Friday evening at the Overit building in Albany. Organizers are touting the event as "the Capital Region's leading experts on tea in one room."
Speakers topics include kitchen herbals, ginseng, fermentation, making cold brew and iced teas, and tea trivia.
The lineup of local vendors includes Short and Stout Tea Co (Guilderland), Divintea (Schenectady), The Whistling Kettle (Ballston Spa and Troy), and The Brakes (Albany).
The Albany Tea Festival is Friday, June 5 from 5:30-9 pm at Overit (435 New Scotland in Albany). Admission is free.
Earlier on AOA: Capital Region spots for tea snobs (2013)
The new Druthers brewery/restaurant in Albany's Warehouse District opens today. The location -- a renovated plumbing supply building -- is the third for the local company, which first opened in downtown Saratoga Springs in 2012 and also recently opened a location at the McGregor Links Country Club in Wilton.
We got a chance to see the new Albany space Monday -- here are a bunch of photos and a few bits.
This is the perfect time of year to go wine touring -- the weather is beautiful, but it's not quite full-on pool weather, yet.
Luckily, the Capital Region is near multiple collections of wineries. It's easy to go touring for the day, or a quick overnight, without too much planning or cost.
Here are three nearby regions where you can make a day out of trying local wines.
A moment of confession: I do not like yogurt.
Growing up, I would watch my mother spoon plain, tangy yogurt topped with fresh fruit across her lips as her morning meal. Today I find myself close with someone who revels in the thought of thick Greek yogurt topped with local granola and stewed rhubarb.
I just can't get behind it. For reasons of taste or texture, it weirds me out (and I say this shamefully, as someone who has made a life around food). The same holds true for frozen yogurt. Many friends have prodded me to try frozen yogurt as a means to hop on the yogurt bandwagon, but it all left me underwhelmed and questioning the appeal.
That is, until I reluctantly tried Ayelada's frozen yogurt in Latham.
Like Darth Vader realizing the error of his ways, or Elizabeth Bennett finally conceding to the appeal of Mr. Darcy, I now feel compelled to change my position.
This chart is recycled from last month, when we put together a bunch of different ways of putting the level of the minimum wage in context. With Andrew Cuomo talking again this week about raising the minimum wage, specifically for fast food workers, we figured it was a good time to highlight that post again.
From Cuomo's op/ed in NYT:
Fast-food workers and their families are twice as likely to receive public assistance compared with other working families. Among fast-food workers nationwide, 52 percent -- a rate higher than in any other industry -- have at least one family member on welfare.
New York State ranks first in public assistance spending per fast-food worker, $6,800 a year. That's a $700 million annual cost to taxpayers.
(Update: See this Capital article about an error in Cuomo's op/ed regarding the number of fast food workers who are raising children.)
The median hourly wage -- that is, the point at which half the people make more and half make less -- for fast food cooks in the Albany metro area was $9.25 per hour in 2014 May, according to numbers published by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, with an annual average wage of $20,520. The BLS also breaks out numbers for "combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food," and the median wage for the Albany metro area was $8.93.
The median hourly wage for restaurant cooks generally in this area was $11.48 per hour, $9.89 for servers, and $9.13 for dishwashers. (Here are the same sets of numbers for New York State generally.)
Elsewhere: Back in March Steve Barnes looked at how an increase in the minimum wage for tipped employees was set to affect restaurants -- and non-tipped restaurant employees such as dishwashers.
Geez, guys, thanks for telling me about Saati. (*eyeroll*)
How is it that I have lived in the Capital Region nearly eleven years, and Saati has just recently come into my gastronomical consciousness? I'm not sure, but I'm glad it has.
With an extensive menu and convenient location, its popularity shouldn't be questioned: Think about a dish from any variety of deli. Chances are Saati has it. Beef kebabs nestle in next to pastrami sandwiches on the lengthy list of offerings.
Saati's offerings have a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern bent, so that's a good place to start.
Here are a few quick pics from the Fork in the Road food truck event in downtown Albany's Tricentennial Park Friday evening.
Six trucks assembled along the edge of the park. And around 6 pm and there was a solid crowd, especially considering this was the first event in the series. Tricentennial Park seemed to work well for the event, with its small herd of cafe tables and the its steps for sitting.
If anything, it's just great to see people enjoying a public space downtown in the evening.
Fork in the Road is set to return on the first Friday of each month through October (it skips July). So the next one is scheduled for June 5 from 4-8 pm.
On to the pics...
This could be interesting: The Honest Weight Food Co-op is hosting a series of strategic planning sessions during May -- and they're open to everyone. Blurbage:
Now that the new store has been open for almost two years, Honest Weight is undertaking a strategic planning process that will rely on input from our members, shareholders, non-member shoppers, vendors, management, staff and other interested groups. We will create a shared vision of who we are as an organization and a business, what we wish to become, and how to get there over the coming years.
We'll be hosting 3 large community events across the Capital Region to bring people together for conversations that we hope will identify the perceptions and values we hold in common. We'll then use that information to help define ourselves into the future.
The first event is this Saturday, May 2 at RPI's Russell Sage Dining Hall (1649 15th Street in Troy) from 1-4 pm. There are also sessions planned for May 17 at the Desmond, and May 30 at St. Sophia's in Albany.
The co-op is asking people to pre-register for a session (and for one session only).
The Honest Weight Food Co-op advertises on AOA.
There was a bit of a flutter in local food circles earlier this week when word about Troy Kitchen popped up on Facebook. The project is billed as a gourmet food court for downtown Troy.
So we got in touch with Cory Nelson, one of the entrepreneurs behind the project, for some details...
The first Fork in the Road food truck event in Albany's Tricentennial Park is this Friday from 4-8 pm (as mentioned). Here's the lineup of confirmed trucks for Friday, via the Downtown Albany BID:
And confirmed vendors for the park:
72 Pearls Thrift Store
Irish American Heritage Museum
Denise Poutre (artist)
Mary Elise Rees Event Design
Meghan Ruch (artist)
A few food/media programs this summer in Rensselaerville that might interest some people:
Longhouse Food Scholars Program
This year's Longhouse Food Scholars Program is July 5-19 and July 26-August 9. Its mission "is to prepare participants for careers in food media, activism, food writing, and food-related entrepreneurial ventures." Additional blurbage:
The Food Scholars Program is structured like a newsroom, intense and fast-paced, with distinct deadlines and deliverables. Working with masters of their craft, scholars shoot and edit mini-documentaries and slide-shows, conduct interviews, gather oral histories, and create online content.
This food media "boot camp" includes daily writing exercises, weekly specialty seminars in recipe testing, studio and location food photography, basic culinary skills, weekly "salon" dinners with food authors, professors and intellectuals, and professional mentoring sessions.
In addition, each scholar is responsible for creating a personal, online portfolio--drawing from this work as well as any additional work he or she may have.
The founder of the program is longtime food writer Molly O'Neill.
The application process is competitive -- "selection is based on a passion for food and storytelling, a well-established appetite for learning, and well-stated career goals." We hear that they'd welcome some more applicants from upstate, so it could be a point in your favor.
Longhouse Food Revival
This year's Longhouse Food Revival is again set for September (it looks like the exact dates haven't been released, yet). The event "combines original multimedia presentations, curated discussions, insight from leading thinkers in food and plenty of time to make new friends, forge new connections and inspire and brew new ideas."
Albany's next food truck pilot program starts May 1 and will include slots for up to 25 food trucks.
The city announced the rules for the program, a follow up to last year's short pilot program at the end of the summer, on Tuesday. (Quick recap of a public meeting earlier this spring to get feedback ahead of the plan's release.) It's set to run May 1 through October 31.
A few of the highlights:
+ Up to 25 trucks will be included in the pilot program. (Last year's program included just five slots, three of which were claimed.) The city will be issuing the permits on a first-come, first-serve basis.
+ The number of possible permits for Washington Park have been increased from three to five. (The designated spot for food trucks in the park is on Washington Park Road at Hudson Ave, near the Knox Street Mall. Trucks will be allowed Saturday and Sunday 11 am-5 pm and Monday 3-9 pm.)
+ Potential operating hours have been expanded to 11 am to 10 pm.
+ The areas open to food trucks will include those zoned industrial, in addition to commercial. (zoning map)
This photo caught our eye this week as we browsed through the Albany Public Library's growing online collection of historical images. The building -- which housed the Waldorf Cafeteria and Rudolph's jewelry -- was on the southeast corner of State and Pearl in downtown Albany. (Here are two more angles from the Albany Flickr group.) This photo is from 1945.
We kind of love the signage.
Curious about the Waldorf Cafeteria, we did a little bit of research. The "Waldorf Lunch System" was one of the first restaurant chains -- it started in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904 and eventually expanded to seven states. Here's a clip from some advertising copy for the chain, as highlighted by the trade publication Cafeteria Management in 1922:
HOW A SMALL BANK ACCOUNT -- PLUS A BIG IDEA -- BECAME A $10,000,000 BUSINESS.
More than 17 years ago the first Waldorf Lunch opened its doors to the people of Springfield, Mass. That Waldorf represented an idea, backed by all its founders savings -- the most sum of $1,800. But it was a good idea -- and it prospered because it performed a service the public wanted, and did it well.
Today that idea is represented by the familiar Waldorf Lunch establishments in this city, and in twenty-seven other cities in seven States.
The foundation idea of the Waldorf system is this: the undeviating purpose to maintain worthy dining-laces where they will perform real public service, the purpose to serve tasteful food of unquestionable quality to men and women at such small profit per person that we shall have many patrons to make those small profits profitable to our employees and shareholders.
During the past year the lunch rooms of the Waldorf system have served more than 37,000,000 meals at an average of less than twenty-eight cents each, and at an average profit of a fraction over two cents per meal.
Over $10,000,000 of annual business built up by efficient management, uncompromising standards of quality, cleanliness, courtesy and quick service!
There'll be good, fresh coffee at the Waldorf Lunch today. It's always the same.
The writer of the trade mag article described that last paragraph of the ad copy as "the touch of the word artist."
photo via Albany Public Library History Collection
They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but no one told Ted's Fish Fry that.
Ted's, the culinary mainstay of the Capital Region eating scene, has been pushing out fried seafood for generations. The first restaurant opened in the 1940s and has changed little in the more than 60 years since. If the food wasn't good, it would feel staid and dated. But thankfully, it is good, and stays current and fresh with subtle tweaks to the menu.
Including fish tacos. Thank goodness for fish tacos.
Coming up this summer: A monthly food truck event in Tricentennial Park in downtown Albany called "Fork in the Road." It's set to coincide with 1st Friday, so the dates are: May 1, June 5, August 7, September 4, and October 2.
The Downtown Albany BID currently has an open call for vendors for the event.
Event blurbage from the info sheet:
As an enhancement to the popular 1st Friday Albany event, organized by the Upstate Artists Guild since 2006 showcasing art throughout different venues in Capital City, Fork in the Road will transform TriCentennial Park into a temporary oasis of food options (specifically with food trucks) to tempt hungry office workers at the end of the day as well as the residents and visitors coming out for the Art event.
Tables and chairs will be placed in the park for the public to relax. The park also has a few benches and steps were individuals can sit. Trash containers and lighting are in ample supply for the public at that location.
The info for potential vendors notes vendors will be required to be open from 4-8 pm. The streets by the park won't be closed, but space along Broadway will be set aside for the trucks.
It looks like the city of Albany is aiming to ride the food truck trend. In addition to this monthly event, the Sheehan admin is scheduled to release rules this week for a second pilot program this summer for food trucks to vend in multiple zones around the city.
Earlier on AOA: Albany to start second food truck pilot program in May
Could be worth the splurge if this is your sort of thing: The well-known Outstanding in the Field series of farm dinners will be at the Beekman 1802 farm in Sharon Springs August 20. The hosts are Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, AKA, The Beekman Boys (it's their farm). And the featured chef for the dinner will be John McCarthy from The Crimson Sparrow in Hudson.
What is Outstanding in the Field? From its about page:
In the summer of 1999, I [founder Jim Denevan] came up with the idea of setting a long table on a farm and inviting the public to an open-air feast in celebration of the farmer and the gifts of the land. I decided to call this idea Outstanding in the Field. I thought a big table, carefully composed alongside the ingredients for the evening's feast would inspire both a conversation at the table and a broader discussion about food, community and the meaning of place. A traveling feast with a central vision of farmers, chefs, cheese makers, ranchers, foragers and winemakers in delicious communion with the people they sustain. It would be a terrific challenge to bring this message to the field and to the world -- it would also be a lot of fun and adventure.
There have been more than 600 such events since then. Here's a Serious Eats post from a few years back about attending one of the dinners.
Tickets for the event are (gulp) $210 and available online.
One-time events like this can be expensive to stage, and no doubt a lot of skill and experience will go into pulling off this event. For some people, the experience will be worth it. It's just... you know, it makes us think that $210 could buy you a lot of delicious communion directly from the farmers at one of the local farmers' market.
photo via Outstanding in the Field Instagram