Items tagged with 'food'

Checking out the pizza at Restaurant Navona

restaurant navona albany exterior

More pizza touring, this time at the recently opened Restaurant Navona. It's the place that took over the Midtown Tea and Tap Room space on New Scotland Ave in Albany's Helderberg neighborhood.

The kitchen now has a wood-fired oven and it's turning out some interesting pies. And we get the impression chef/co-owner Mike Niccoli is serious about their pizza game. (A tip of the hat to Steve N. for mentioning the pizza at Navona.)

So, the Tournament of Pizza crew stopped in to taste a handful of pies...

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A sampling of cooking classes, winter 2016

kitchen tools in metal holder

Even in this winter of non-winter, February and March can be a good time to take a cooking class. It's a chance to gather somewhere warm, learn something new, and eat something good.

So, here's a new a batch of cooking classes over the next few months that caught our eye -- and maybe you'll find them interesting: From Valentine's Day treats, to sausage making, to tagine, to ramen, to sushi, to pancakes.

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The Antipasto Salad at Bellini's Counter

bellinis counter antipasta salad overhead

By Deanna Fox

The fast-casual concept is the hot ticket in restaurants these days. It is why places like Chipotle, Blaze Pizza, and the upcoming Troy Kitchen continue to flourish across the dining scene. Sitting down and ordering with a server is so old-hat. We Americans are a busy bunch! Give us quality food on the go and don't make us wait too long for it.

But one cuisine that is unrepresented in the local fast-casual marketplace is Italian fare (save for pizza). Is it possible to get a hearty bowl of spaghetti and meatballs with haste?

Bellini's Counter -- the fast-casual offshoot of the local Bellini's Italian restaurant chain -- seems to think so. And they are willing to bet that the food you've come to expect from more formal sit-down restaurants can be had just as easily in this quick-serve format.

I think it's fair to say Bellini's is cashing in on that bet.

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Death Wish Coffee gets a Super Bowl ad

Death Wish Coffee -- the hyper-caffeinated coffee brand that grew out of Saratoga Coffee Traders -- is going to have a TV commercial during the Super Bowl (er, right, The Big Game). Really.

Death Wish won a contest run by Intuit QuickBooks for the 30-second spot. The coffee brand finished first in a series of public votes. In addition to the ad time, Quickbooks also covered the cost of developing and producing the commercial.

The ad is embedded above.

Death Wish touts itself as "the world's strongest coffee ... created by using the strongest combination of beans and a perfect roasting process." It's available at Saratoga Coffee Traders in downtown Saratoga Springs (of course), as well as the Markets 32 in Clifton Park and Wilton, and online.

Checking out Blaze Pizza

Blaze Pizza Stuyvesant Plaza exterior 2016-January

The Stuyvesant Plaza location.

Blaze Pizza -- a fast-casual pizza chain -- opened last Friday in Stuyvesant Plaza. It's the second location in the Capital Region -- the first opened at Mohawk Commons in Niskayuna last fall.

The Blaze concept is sort of like Chipotle, but for pizza -- you walk in, go through the line telling them what you'd like on your pizza, and then the pizza goes into an oven for a few minutes. They call your name, you take the pizza to your table and eat. It's about $8 for a pizza that can feed 1-2 people depending on how hungry you are/whether you also get a salad.

We're always looking for an excuse to 1) eat pizza and 2) meet up with the Tournament of Pizza crew. So we got the band back together and went to taste some pizza.

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New CEO for Price Chopper/Market 32 parent company

Golub Corp Scott GrimmettThe Golub Corporation -- the privately-held parent company of Price Chopper/Market 32 based in Schenectady -- announced Wednesday that it has a new CEO. And notably, the person is not a Golub.

Scott Grimmett, who had been the company chief operating officer (he was the first non-Golub to hold that role), is succeeding Jerry Golub in the CEO role. Grimmett (that's him on the right) joined the Golub Corp in 2012 after working for Safeway for 37 years. He's been part of the company succession plan since he was hired, according to a press release.

Press release blurbage:

"This is an exciting time for our company," said Neil Golub, chairman of the board. "While international conglomerates and Wall St. continue to consolidate our industry, we are investing in our future as a strong, American-owned, family-built regional chain. The design work that we invested in Market Bistro (circa 2010-2014), coupled with the brand-defining innovation that has given rise to our first few Market 32 concept stores has not only laid the groundwork for our continued growth, but also fueled the acceleration of our plans to modernize our stores under the Market 32 banner. "

Jerry Golub is now vice chair of the company's board and will be leading a committee focused on accelerating the switch from the Price Chopper brand to Market 32, according to the press release.

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Pickle-brined chicken sandwich at 677 Prime

677 Prime fried chicken sandwich

By Deanna Fox

Restaurants, for me, are like bad boyfriends. I take them back time and time again, even when they aren't that good for me. Disappointment looms, but sometimes things can change, right?

This bad habit has mostly waned, at least regarding restaurants. I realize anyone can have a bad night, but if a restaurant does me wrong by way of bad service, poor food quality, or lacking atmosphere, chances are good I'm not going back.

A relapse now and then can be good, though.

Case in point: The pickle-brined fried chicken sandwich at 677 Prime in Albany. I'm glad I went back for a second try.

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Coffee class at Superior Merchandise Co.

superior merchandise coffee cupThis could be something different and interesting to try: Superior Merchandise Company in Troy is offering a "Coffee School" class about coffee tasting on February 1. Blurbage:

Lead by SMCo.'s Director of Coffee Matthew Loiacono, the class will delve into a history of coffee, ideal growing conditions for coffee, general coffee region taste characteristics, how coffee professionals evaluate coffee, an intro to the SCAA taster's wheel and will wrap up with a tasting and discussion of three single origin coffees. The 90 minute class will be presented in a loose lecture-style format, interspersed with flash "taste and describe" breaks.

The class is Monday, February 1 from 6-7:30 pm. Tickets are $30 and available online.

The shop already one of the classes scheduled for January 25 and it sold out. So if you're interested in attending, getting tickets sooner rather than later is probably a good idea.

Earlier on AOA: Superior Merchandise Co.

What was on the menu in Albany back then

delavan house menu 1884 crop

History so often is about dates and places and battles and famous people. But we often find ourselves curious about the day-to-day things from way back. What were people's houses like? What did they do for fun? What were they eating?

We had that last question in mind when we came across a group of historical menus that are online as part of the New York Public Library's collection. And a handful of them are from hotels and halls in Albany during the last 1800s and early 1900s.

So... what was on the menu?

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Electric City Food Co-op info meeting

electric city food coop logoThe in-development Electric City Food Co-op -- "organizing to bring a community-owned, one-stop grocery market featuring local and bulk foods to the downtown area of Schenectady" -- has an informational meeting lined for this Saturday, January 16.

Project blurbage:

The Electric City Food Co-op hopes to expand market opportunities for local farmers and entrepreneurs, bring the healthiest and freshest foods to one of the food deserts of Schenectady on a full-time basis, offer greater opportunity for intentional eating, and strengthen the local economy by keeping our food dollars local.

Here's an FAQ on the co-op's website about its plans.

Co-op organizers say they've gotten financial commitments from 155 households so far. When it reached 300 households, they say they'll be able to begin the process of site selection. (And 1,000 member-owners will eventually be needed to open.)

The info meeting Saturday is at the Schenectady County Historical Society (32 Washington Ave in Schenectady) from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Steuben Street Market

Steuben Street Market Albany interior

There's a new grocery store in downtown Albany. The Steuben Street Market opened at 58 North Pearl Street for the first time Wednesday, and will be open seven days a week.

The market's opening is notable because a grocery store has been a missing piece in downtown Albany's ongoing evolution into a residential neighborhood. Roughly 1,000 new residential units have been added downtown during the last few years, and residents, developers, and other business owners have all mentioned that the addition of a grocery could mark an important turning point for the neighborhood.

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Rice Chicken Soup at Chontong Thai

chotong thai chicken soup overhead

By Deanna Fox

Balancing the annual rite of passage to eat clean and healthy that New Year's resolutions bring with the desire to eat comforting, rich foods during winter's coldest days might be the great dichotomy of modern humanity. At least for Upstaters.

What should one do, for instance, when the temperature dips below freezing (well below), a head cold has taken over, and the desire to indulge and self-soothe with a gluttonous delight contradicts all the abstention from fatty, sweet, and carb-loaded food that winter cuisine is known for?

You order the rice chicken soup from Chontong Thai in Delmar, that's what.

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Favorite local foods of 2015

snowman boston shake

A favorite treat. / photo: Lauren Hittinger Hodgson

With 2016 about the start, we're asking a bunch of people about favorite/interesting things from 2015.

First up: Favorite local foods or drinks of the past year.

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Dutch drinking chocolate at Vischer Ferry General Store

Vischer Ferry General Store drinking chocolate

And, of course, you could probably use a little something to nibble on, too.

By Deanna Fox

I am a sucker for anything "General Store" related: Cooperstown; Hillsdale; Fort Orange. I patronize them all.

It likely harkens to that great general store that was the hub of village activities in my hometown. It's only a memory now, as the building it was housed in -- the Cox Block, the grand madame situated on the corner of the crossroads -- burned just before Christmas last year. Maybe subtly grasping at nostalgia is the general store draw for me.

So when a friend suggested that we check out the recently-opened Vischer Ferry General Store in the sleepy, historic Clifton Park hamlet, I was all for it.

A modest website suggested little on what I might find there (except for charm and an old-timey feel), so I went in blindly, assured by my friend I could at least have coffee there.

She said nothing of Dutch drinking chocolate. These are the kinds of surprises I can fully get behind.

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Where to get a good fruitcake?

fruitcake on plate Flickr storebukkebruse CCBryon asks via the Facebook:

Any suggestions on where to find a good local fruitcake?

Yep, we hear the joke already: A good fruitcake is no fruitcake. But apparently good version of the Christmas staple are actually pretty good.

We'll also expand Bryon's question a bit to include other traditional Christmas cake-ish things, like stollen.

So, got a suggestion for a good local place to snag a fruitcake? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending the place/product is always appreciated.

Earlier on AOA: Bakeries that sell yule logs/Bûche de Noël for Christmas?

photo: Flickr user storebukkebruse (CC BY 2.0)

Last-minute local holiday eats

bottle of the 10th pin

Nine Pin + Albany Distilling = The 10th Pin. / photo via Nine Pin FB

By Deanna Fox

OH, DANG! You have a holiday party to go to, and you blanked on bringing a gift or a dish to pass, didn't you?

Don't worry, it happens, especially with the hustle of the holiday season.

Fear not: We, your dear friends in the holiday spirit, are here to set you on your merry way with a few suggestions for last-minute grab-and-go items that will have everyone thinking you've definitely got your ho-ho-ho together.

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Restaurants with in-kitchen dining tables?

plates on kitchen passDavid emails:

Do you guys know of any restaurants in the area that have dining tables set up in the kitchen, to see the kitchen in action? Like a chefs table type of setup?

The first place that popped into our mind was the bar along the open kitchen at Peck's Arcade in Troy. But we're guessing there are at least a few other spots around the Capital Region.

Got a suggestion for David? Please share!

Salmon BLT at Public House 42

Public House 42 salmon BLT

By Deanna Fox

I love bacon. I'm just not a fan of it on a sandwich. Unless it's a BLT. And in that case, I'm not even really that enthused about the idea of bacon on a sandwich. Next to pancakes, or sliced into lardons in sautéed Brussels sprouts? Heck yes, bacon all day long. Otherwise, meh.

The same holds true for salmon. I like most seafood and fish, but salmon can be a bit boring sometimes. And being the empiricist that I am, past experience sampling salmon burgers or other types of salmon sandwiches have conditioned me to avoid salmon-between-bread at most costs.

But while recently having lunch with my friend Craig (of Albany Ale fame) at Public House 42 in Albany, he insisted I try the salmon BLT -- a sandwich he had enjoyed before and thought I might like -- and try to quell my doubts on the integrity of the menu item.

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A good restaurant for Christmas dinner?

chow fun at Hong Kong BakeryNancy emails:

For several years we have enjoyed going to Karavali in Latham on Christmas Day. This year we'd like to explore somewhere else. Nothing wrong with Karavali - it's great and very busy that day.
We are looking for something in the nearby Capital Region - NOT a typical Christmas Buffet at a hotel, but an interesting, non-religious restaurant which is open on Christmas Day and provides great food and a festive atmosphere.
May I ask the readers of AOA to make suggestions, please?

We get the feeling from Nancy's email that she's very interested in heading to another ethnic restaurant, or just trying something a bit different.

Anyone have local Christmas Day dining experiences or suggestions to share with Nancy? Please share!

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...

cdphp in-post ad local food week 2

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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.

cdphp in-post ad local food week 2

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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.

cdphp in-post ad local food week 2

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The Scoop

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