Items tagged with 'food'

Crepes at The French Press Cafe and Creperie

French Press Cafe Albany exterior

By Deanna Fox

On some of the oldest real estate in downtown Albany -- Clinton Square -- lies a small piece of France. A French cafe, in fact, that churns out classics of French cuisine, like baguette sandwiches, cafe au lait, and crepes.

A taste of France in this area is nothing new: French fur traders were some of the earliest Europeans in the Albany region. Throughout history, France and America have traded barbs are readily as they've supported each other when Le Merde hits Le Fan; regardless, we've embraced French culture and perhaps appreciate it best through food: Croissant, macarons, boeuf bourguignon, wine. Romantic notions of what France is draw American visitors regularly to the country, though experiencing it first-hand is a mere Gene Kelly-esque pipedream for those of us with wanderlust bigger than our bank accounts.

But thankfully, on the cobblestone promenade just west of the Hudson River, we can find a budget-friendly glimpse of France at The French Press Cafe and Creperie, where we can linger en plein air on wrought iron bistro seating, sip our coffee, and indulge in that wonderful French creation: The crepe.

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Baking that Albany Cake

albany cake two versions closeup

Same recipe, two different interpretations.

Last week we mentioned that 1828 recipe for "Albany Cake" (thanks, Pamela!), which prompted a a discussion about some of the quirks of the recipe and what the cake might be like.

Well, Greg Kern -- the pastry chef at Peck's Arcade in Troy -- saw the recipe and decided to actually try it.

So we thought it'd be fun to talk with him about how it worked out...

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Looking ahead at New York's craft beverage boom

glass of nine pin cider

Hard cider is one of the many growing segments of the state's craft beverages industry.

By Deanna Fox

We wrap up Following Food week with a few drinks.

I write frequently about the beer, cider, wine, and spirits industry, and to be honest it is hard to keep up with the frequency at which another craft beverage producer is launching, or when new craft products are being released. New York State is a hotbed for craft beverages, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down.

Just ask Andrew Cuomo. Last month, his administration held the third wine, beer, spirits and cider summit in Albany that brought together beverage makers, farmers, politicians, and bureaucrats to discuss the progress made in the beverage production in New York State.

"Our investments in the farm-based beverage industry have created a synergy of economic momentum for wineries, cideries, breweries and distilleries. That momentum is fueling opportunity for small businesses across the state, and we are going to keep it coming well into the future," said Cuomo, who then announced a series of investments and initiatives totaling more than $16 million to support the beverage industry's growth.

Here are some of the obstacles -- and opportunities -- that are still ahead...

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What did Albany eat in the 18th century?

Hawley Family conversation piece 1801 William Wilkie

This scene depicts the Hawley Family of Albany in 1801 -- it was painted William Wilkie and is part of the collection of the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Following Food week takes a turn now for the old-school...

We're coming up on the end-of-year holidays and many of us will be serving a lot of the same holiday foods -- turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, stuffing. Sure, we all have our own versions of holiday foods, but there are plenty of similarities.

So what about people who lived here, say, 200 years ago? What did they serve at their holiday tables?

Sara Evenson, an MA candidate at Virginia Tech, has been researching 18th century food history -- and she's particularly interested in Albany cuisine from that era. She'll be giving a talk about some of her research at the State Museum Friday afternoon as part of the Researching New York conference.

We chatted with Evenson about how 18th century food here differed from what we eat now, and about what would have been on holiday tables back then.

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Albany Cake

cook and housewifes manual dods cover page

As part the Following Food week drawing, Pamela's pick for a food to represent the Capital Region intrigued us: Albany Cakes (or Dutch Pudding).

The dessert is mentioned in the The Cook and Housewife's Manual: A Practical System of Modern Domestic Cookery and Family Management by Margaret Dods, which was first published in 1828.

Going through old cookbooks is kind of like digging up old magic -- the recipes (spells) often contain ingredients and methods that now seem rather mysterious.

So, we figured it be fun to look up the recipe.

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How raising steer has changed the way I eat

steers in the corral

By Jon Kunin

Back in the 70s and early 80s, my father-in-law raised animals. Steers, a few pigs, turkeys, and the freezer often had some hunted venison. Most of that had stopped by the time I started hanging around in the early 90s.

In December of 2003, the first case of mad cow disease was discovered in the US. A few weeks later at a New Year's party, my father-in-law asked, "If I did cows again, would you want in?"

Being a little too into all things food -- and a bit drunk -- I was game. And I'm glad I was. Because there is no doubt the experience has changed the way I cook and eat.

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Defining an upstate cuisine

apples in bin in orchard at Samascott

Apples, sure. But the bounty of great local products extends far beyond that.

By Daniel B.

With the harvest from this past summer finishing up, and Thanksgiving just ahead, we figured it would be a good time for some thinking and discussion about local food. So, it's Following Food Week here on AOA.

Is there an Upstate New York Cuisine?

Sure, in the Capital Region we have mini hot dogs, foot-long fish fry, and mozzarella with melba -- but that's not quite a cuisine, per se. And we have a strong tavern culture, but regardless of how soul satisfying a cheesy, doughy, saucy, tavern pie may be in the midst of winter, it doesn't provide the flavor of the region.

Many regional cuisines are based on the unique combination of local ingredients that are available in the area. And here, at the intersection of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, surrounded by farms, woods, and mountains, we have plenty of raw materials from which to draw inspiration.

So, with that as a starting place, we asked some talented chefs: "What would an Upstate New York Regional Dinner menu look like?"

cdphp in-post ad local food week 2

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Re-growing the local grain industry

young blades of pastry wheat

Amy's favorite pastry wheat is planted in the fall near Ithaca.

By Amy Halloran

With the harvest from this past summer finishing up, and Thanksgiving just ahead, we figured it would be a good time for some thinking and discussion about local food. So, it's Following Food Week here on AOA. We start things off with a look at the effort to re-grow this area's grain industry.

Grains are so foundational and basic that we don't give them much thought. I certainly never gave them much mind, even though I'm a heavy baker.

Until five years ago, I had two facts about flour: I knew I liked King Arthur, and that I loved the taste of whole wheat.

Then, I had a cookie that introduced me to fresh, locally-grown oats and wheat. The flavors were so vibrant I had to follow that food back to the field.

And I'm here to report that the road to local wheat is tough traveling.

cdphp in-post ad local food week 2

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Avocado Fries at Slidin' Dirty

slidin dirty avocado fries

By Deanna Fox

Everyone together now, on the count of three. Ready?

1...2...3... (Insert sigh of longing here.)

I think I might have been the last person in the Capital Region to understand the appeal and popularity of avocado fries from Slidin' Dirty (which has a location in Troy, along with a roving food truck). I can barely utter the words without someone interrupting with, "Oh my gosh, avocado fries. My favorite." Sometimes they actually drool, too.

And since this column is designed to highlight great food in the Albany area, it would be antithetical not to take a moment to appreciate the avocado fry, an ingenious use of a humble fruit that makes everyone from small children to large, bearded, beer-loving men giddy with delight.

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He beat Bobby Flay

ric orlando beat bobby flay

New World chef Ric Orlando was on the Food Network show Beat Bobby Flay Thursday night.

And he won!

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Roast beef at Wm. H. Buckley Farm

Buckley Farm Cafe exterior 2015-October

By Deanna Fox

Happenstance is a wonderful thing. You never quite know what life is going to bring your way. If you are lucky, that means many delicious morsels will grace the path (luckier still if you are wise enough to embrace and savor them).

When I went up to Ballston Lake on Friday for a state Department of Agriculture and Markets press conference at Wm. H. Buckley Farm, I was expecting to get some insight on both new stories and story lines I have been following for a while.

I wasn't expecting to eat, let alone taste, some of the most tender and flavorful roast beef I've ever had.

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These burgers have no meat (and that's OK)

veggie burger composite

By Greg

We've had a string of burger-related posts this week -- a sort of fast-casual theme week. And now we're finishing up with Greg taking a look at burgers that don't involve meat.

I like veggie burgers. A lot. And in the past year I've easily eaten more veggie burgers than regular meat burgers.

The reasons include:

+ I've been trying to eat less meat for environmental reasons.

+ The meat I do eat I'd like to be humanely- and sustainably-raised. (I can do a better job of this.)

+ I think veggie burgers are interesting from a culinary standpoint because they're a different spin on something that's so common in our food culture.

So here are quick takes on seven veggie burgers from around the area that I've tried...

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The art of creating a burger

looking into the kitchen at Crave

Looking through the pass into the kitchen at Crave.

We have a string of burger-related posts this week -- let's call it a fast-casual theme week.

Burgers are burgers -- some places might execute better than others, but when you get down to it, everyone pretty much has the same thing, right?

That's not the case at Crave, which recently opened at the corner of Western Ave and Quail Street in Albany. Co-owners Devin Ziemann and Kaytrin Della Sala have created a menu of more than 20 different types of burgers that spans from the classic American cheese burger, to a lamb burger with curry mayo, to a French onion burger, to a turkey burger inspired by pastrami, to a kung pao shrimp burger.

"We get people in here three, four times a week trying to conquer the menu," says Ziemann, a chef who headed up other kitchens around the Capital Region before he and Della Sala decided to open something of their own. "The list is so big because there were so many [burgers] that we were, like, we can't get rid of that one, it's awesome."

So we thought it'd be fun to have Ziemann walk us through his thought process when creating a burger...

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The new-school burger chains: fries

burger chain tasting fries composite

We have a string of burger-related posts this week -- let's call it a fast-casual theme week.

As we made our way along the tasting tour of the new-school burger chains, you didn't think we'd skip the fries, do you? That just wouldn't be right.

And we came to a very important conclusion in doing so. Mainly that, when confronted with mediocre fries, we'll continue eating them even though we know we shouldn't.

As for what we else we learned about fries on this burger tour...

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Mark Bittman at UAlbany this Thursday

mark bittman

Just a reminder that popular food writer Mark Bittman will be at UAlbany Thursday (October 22) as part of the NYS Writers Institute visiting writers series. The event is at 7:30 pm in Page Hall on the downtown campus.

Bittman be talking about his new book A Bone to Pick. Blurbage:

Bittman's latest book complies his most memorable and entertaining New York Times columns into a single volume for the first time. Bittman's columns help readers decipher arcane policy, unpack scientific studies, and scrutinize corporate greed when it comes to defining what "eating well" truly means. A Bone to Pick is an essential resource for every reader eager to understand both the complexities of the American food system and the many opportunities that exist to improve it.

Bittman has written a bunch of cookbooks -- notably, How to Cook Everything. And until recently he had been regularly columnist and writer for the New York Times, in recent years focusing on food policy. This past September he announced he was leaving his regular column at the paper to "take a central role in a year-old food company."

photo via Mark Bittman's website

A tasting tour of the new-school burger chains

burger chain tasting composite

We have a string of burger-related posts this week -- let's call it a fast-casual theme week.

There's been a recent boomlet of new-school burger chains in the Capital Region. Smashburger, Burger 21, and BurgerFi have all opened locations here during the last year or so, with at least one other chain still planning an arrival. And, of course, there's Five Guys, which has been here for years.

These are all fast food places, but their pitches are something sort of along the lines of Chipotle -- fast food with the aim of higher quality and nicer experience.

So we thought it'd be interesting to get a group of tasters together to tour four of these chains all in one day to compare the burgers (and fries!) one after another.

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Drawing: What's your favorite burger in the Capital Region?

favorite local burger illustration

Drawing's closed! Winner's been emailed!

This week we have a string of burger-related posts lined up -- sort of a fast-casual theme week. And to get things started we thought it'd be fun to have a drawing in which we ask about your favorite burgers.

The prize: a $50 gift certificate to the establishment that makes the favorite burger mentioned in your comment. (You know, so you can go enjoy that burger with a friend.)


What's your favorite burger in the Capital Region?

Please mention just one burger at one place in your comment. If you'd like to top your answer with a sentence or two about why it's your favorite burger, we'd very much appreciate it. We'll draw one comment at random, that person will the get the gift certificate.

One important restriction: The burger place must be in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, or Schenectady county.

We're looking forward to hearing about your favorites.

Important: All comments must be submitted by 11:59 pm on Wednesday, September 21, 2015 to be entered in the drawing. You must answer the question to be part of the drawing. (Normal commenting guidelines apply.) One entry per person, please. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winner will be notified via email by noon on Thursday and must respond by noon on Friday, October 23.

Sentinel Butchery

sentinel butchery exterior

The shop is on the street level of the building at 225 River Street, which once housed the Troy Sentinel. (The Sentinel was the newspaper that originally published "A Visit from St. Nicholas.)

A new whole-animal butcher shop -- Sentinel Butchery -- is opening on River Street near Monument Square in downtown Troy this Saturday.

Whole animal? That means Sentinel will be bringing in whole cows, pigs, lambs, and other animals and then making use of every part of the animal for a range of products.

We stopped by this week to talk with owner/butcher Emily Petersen for a few minutes and a get a quick look at the shop.

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Baklava at Athos

athos baklava

By Deanna Fox

Lately, I've been feeling wanderlusty.

Don't get me wrong -- Upstate New York in fall is a wonderful place to be. I relish and marvel in it every year. But I've also had this desire to uproot myself and go explore a less familiar territory. Maybe it is the change in seasons that has me yearning for a change in my own life, too.

Whatever it is, I've got the travel itch; unfortunately hopping on a plane to some exotic locale is not in the cards for me in the moment. I did the next best thing: Took a day trip to explore unknown towns around me, and tucked into food that would transport me to another place.

Cerulean seas were calling my name. I opted for a piece of baklava instead.

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Distilling the next life for Albany's oldest building

Van Ostrande-Radliff House oldest building in Albany 2015-10-01

As the building currently stands.

In a life almost three centuries long, you're going to cycle through a few different careers.

So it is with the Van Ostrande-Radliff House -- AKA, Albany's oldest building -- which has served as a townhouse, a wax factory, and an equipment storage space (among other uses) over its 287-year-old lifetime.

And now there's a plan for the Van Ostrande-Radliff House's next career: as a distillery.

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Photos from the AOA cider pairing event at Nine Pin Cider Works

nine pin tasting event composite

We got a bunch of people together Thursday night for a cider pairing event at Nine Pin Cider Works in Albany.

People got to taste a flight of four ciders paired with four locally-made cheeses, along with a short introduction to each from Nine Pin's Alejandro del Peral and cheese makers and purveyors. Then everyone took a tour of the production facility, and finished off the night with free samples of cider sorbet made by the Dutch Udder.

It was a good time. Thanks to everyone who joined us!

Here are a handful of photos of the night...

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When New York was hopped up

hop farm near Cooperstown 1900 NYS Archives

The photo above is from the NYS Archives, and it's from a hop farm near Cooperstown around 1900.

Hop farm? You know it. From the accompany description on the archives site:

In Ostego County in the town of Madison, New Yorker James D. Coolidge planted the first hops yards in 1808. His commercial opportunity came fourteen years later when blight, insects, and unfavorable weather decimated crops in England. This increased the demand for New York's hops in both national and international markets.
The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 and the influx of German immigrants during the first half of the nineteenth century also increased the domestic demand for hops. In 1850, New York shipped 750,000 pounds of hops to British markets. In 1880, all but sixteen New York counties were growing hops. Ostego, Madison, Herkimer, Schoharie, Chenago, Oneida, and Montgomery Counties were the leading producers of hops, with Ostego County producing more hops than any other county in the United States.

Disease and Prohibition pretty much killed off the hop growing industry in New York, and today most of the hops grown in the country are produced out in the Pacific Northwest.

But the crop is making a comeback here, a rise prompted in part by the state's farm brewery license, which requires breweries operating under the license to use a certain percentage of New York-grown ingredients. Casey wrote about the rebirth of the New York hop industry a few years back.

Among the local farms that are part of the re-hopped New York is Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont, which is growing a variety of hops. (You might remember the Indian Ladder Farms IPA at the Pump Station last year.) ILF recently finished this year's hop harvest and posted some photos of the process on its Facebook page.

photo: NYS Archives

Drink Albany

albany craft beverage trail map

Two things:

1. There is now an Albany Craft Beverage Trail -- it includes C.H. Evans Brewing (the Pump Station), Albany Distilling Co., Nine Pine Cider Works, and Druthers Brewing.

2. Said beverage trail has organized an event called Drink Albany for this Saturday, October 3 at Quackenbush Square. Blurbage:

Drink Albany features live music from Mirk, North and South Dakotas, and other local bands along with free samples of beer, cider and spirits from C.H. Evans Brewing, Druthers, the Albany Distilling Company, and Nine Pin Cider. Food trucks and other local vendors will also be present. Ticket includes an Albany Craft Beverage Trail signature glass and the opportunity to drink from Albany's best.

Drink Albany is Saturday from noon-5 pm.

Advance tickets are $10 / $25 VIP ticket. (And it looks like there's a $5 designated driver ticket.)

Nine Pin advertises on AOA, and Druthers is a sponsor of the AOA BBB Tour.

Polish food at Muza

muza polish food composite

By Deanna Fox

We are killing the American palate.

Or maybe we killed it long ago. In a land of more is more and bigger is better, we've lost an appreciation for small nuances in food that give it true character and speak to the origins of the recipe. Don't give us a classic roasted chicken; instead, give us just the wing, doused in fiery, sticky burnt-orange sauce that masks the chicken itself.

Post-World War II American culture saw the rise of heavily processed foods that oversaturated our palates with salt, sugar, and additives. We've dimmed our abilities to recognize true flavor because of how accustomed we've become to the overload of flavor enhancements pushed upon us by Big Food. Now, if we don't feel kicked in the teeth with astringent, bracing piquancy, we write food off as bland and boring.

Muza, in Troy, debunks this conception, proving that traditional foods prepared in simple ways can still pack a punch without walloping us with artifice.

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Beyond apple pie: Four ways to use up all those apples you just picked

deanna fox apple recipes composite
By Deanna Fox

Sad but true: There is such a thing as too much apple pie.

New York State produces 29.5 million bushels of apples annually, with more than half of that yield sold as fresh apples (according to the New York Apple Association). With numbers like that, chances are good if you are reading this, you have recently made a trip to the orchard or are about to.

And, likely, you'll have a few errant apples left in the orchard bag or crisper drawer of the fridge. If you just can't stomach another pie or crisp or batch of applesauce, fear not: Here are four recipes to save you from the apple overload.

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The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

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