Items tagged with 'food'

Day trip: Wine touring

wine touring composite

By Lauren Hittinger

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.

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Frozen yogurt at Ayelada

ayelada frozen yogurt blueberry vanilla with lemon curd

Blueberry-vanilla twist, with lemon curd and and cookie crumbs.

By Deanna Fox

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.

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On order: Another look at the minimum wage

nys minimum wage history cropped

A minimum wage consistent across many industries in New York State dates back to 1962. Here's how it's increased over time, with a comparison in 2015 dollars for some perspective. (Inflation calculations via the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics calculator.)

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.

Falafel and shawarma at Saati Deli and Catering

Saati falafel and shawarma

By Deanna Fox

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.

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Fork in the Road #1

Fork in the Road food truck event albany

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...

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Conversations about the future direction of Honest Weight

Honest Weight new store produce section

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).

(Thanks, Cara)

The Honest Weight Food Co-op advertises on AOA.

A few details about Troy Kitchen

Troy Kitchen 50 4th Street Troy interior pre-renovation

The interior of the former bank building at 50 4th Street in Troy. / photo courtesy of Cory Nelson

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...

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Fork in the Road lineup

food truckThe 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:

Emack & Bolio's Ice Cream
The Chuck Wagon
The Hungry Traveler
Sweet Mama Mia
Wandering Dago

And confirmed vendors for the park:

72 Pearls Thrift Store
Kernal Cravings
Irish American Heritage Museum
Denise Poutre (artist)
Mary Elise Rees Event Design
Meghan Ruch (artist)

Earlier on AOA: Albany food truck pilot program for summer 2015 to include up to 25 trucks

Longhouse Food Scholars, Revival

longhouse food revival logoA 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."

(Thanks, L)

Albany food truck pilot program for summer 2015 to include up to 25 trucks

Washington Park
The section of Washington Park at which up to five trucks will be allowed to operate.

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)

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"There'll be good, fresh coffee at the Waldorf Lunch today. It's always the same."

waldorf cafeteria downtown albany 1945

Here's what that corner looks like now.

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

Fish tacos at Ted's Fish Fry

teds fish fry tacos

By Deanna Fox

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.

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"Fork in the Road" food truck event in downtown Albany

Tricentennial Park on Broadway in downtown Albany. (It's the park across from building formerly known as Kiernan Plaza/the train station.)

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

Outstanding in the Field at Beekman 1802

outstanding in the fieldCould 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.

[via]

photo via Outstanding in the Field Instagram

In search of a proper cappuccino

Lauren_cappuccino_Italian_cappuccino.jpg

A memory from Italy.

By Lauren Hittinger

I would not consider myself a coffee snob. I don't have a favorite barista or monitor the time between the grinding and brewing of beans. And, sin of all sins, I own a Keurig.

However, there is one beverage that I am beyond picky about: the cappuccino.

Ever since visiting Italy last year, I have been searching for an authentic Italian-style cappuccino in the Capital Region. I have been discouraged by insanely large cup sizes and creations that more closely resemble a latte, filled with excessive amounts of milk.

So, in an effort to find a cappuccino like the versions I had in Italy, I recent visited five top cafes in search of my local favorite.

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Albany to start second food truck pilot program in May

Slidin Dirty food truckQuick update on the city of Albany's plans for food trucks: The city's aiming to release the rules for this year's season on April 15, with permits starting May 1.

City officials collected some feedback on last year's pilot program at a public meeting Monday evening at city hall. Kate Lawrence, a planner with the city, described the upcoming season as a continuation of last year's trial program. She projected that the new rules wouldn't include any drastic changes from last year.

Among the issues that surfaced during public comments at Monday's meeting: The possibility of expanding the zones where food trucks would be allowed, increasing the hours the trucks could operate (there was interest being open later), and concerns about the size of permit fees.

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Ravioli from Ragonese Imports

ragonese_imports_ravioli_chicken_prosciutto.jpg

Chicken and prosciutto ravioli.

By Deanna Fox

For being such a simple thing, ravioli can be tough to get right.

When I'm not writing and producing media about food, I teach cooking classes. And in one of my most popular classes we make ravioli. There is certain finesse to the art of pasta. The dough and fillings are usually quite minimal in terms of ingredients to make them - usually no more than five ingredients in either - but the way in which it's made is the important part. You must be gentle, yet firm. You must be quick, and also slow.

Lucky for us, we live in a place that has plenty of good pasta. And one of them is Ragonese Imports in Albany, whose take-home ravioli boxes are a standout among the offerings of the area's many Italian import stores.

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Meeting about food trucks in Albany

food trucks at the capitol 2013 summerThe city of Albany has a public meeting about food trucks lined up for this coming Monday (March 30) at 5 pm at city hall. Press release blurbage:

What are your thoughts on food trucks in Albany? If you'd like to see more of them, where should they go and when should they operate? What did you like about last year's Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program, and what would you like to see changed?
This Monday, March 30th, at 5 p.m. in the rotunda of City Hall, a meeting will be held to discuss these questions and explore what worked and what can be improved on last year's Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program, which ran from August to October 2014. The City is looking to launch a revised food vendor pilot program this spring.

The meeting is open to the public, and the city says it welcomes attendance from business owners, including food truck operators and owners of fixed-location restaurants.

Here's the city's information about the food truck pilot program it ran last year.

A good spot to get General Tso's Chicken?

general tso's chickenSean emails:

General Tso's Chicken is a huuuuuge guilty pleasure of mine. It was a staple of my college diet. Trouble is, since moving out here to Albany, I've had a heck of a time finding somewhere that can give me a decent version, let alone a GREAT version. I was wondering if any of your readers shared my guilty pleasure and could point me in the direction of their favorite spot. I live in Albany and work in Latham so anywhere near either place is fair game.

General Tso's chicken has an interesting history (or histories), as illustrated by this short profile of the dish by Fuschia Dunlop. Its roots can be traced back to the Hunan province of China, but like a lot of Chinese food in the United States it went through some interpretation and change before becoming popular here. In this specific case, the thread runs through Taiwan, New York City, Henry Kissinger (really), and back to China. (OK, culinary history tangent over.)

Aside from Ala Shanghai and Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro, we don't hear much about individual Chinese food restaurants around the Capital Region. That is undoubtedly our fault -- we're probably not listening in the right places. So, this question is a good opportunity to maybe learn a little bit more.

Got a suggestion for Sean about a good place for General Tso's chicken -- or good Chinese restaurants in general? Please share!

photo: Evan Joshua Swigart (TheCulinaryGeek) on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Easter candy from Krause's

krause's easter candy

By Deanna Fox

I'm a little buzzed.

Sugar buzzed.

Just moments before I sat down to write this post, I subjected myself to tasting (that is, gobbling down) a selection of Easter-themed candies from Krause's Candy in Colonie.

As I rode the sugar wave, it became clear: Ditch the aisles at Big Box Store for filling holiday baskets, and make haste towards Krause's for your Easter treats.

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Ice cream stand season 2015

jims tastee freez bethlehem 2014-August

The Tastee Freez in Bethlehem is already open. (This photo's from last summer -- obviously.)

Breaking: Ice cream stand season has started.

Jim's Tastee Freez is already open. The Snowman opens later this week. And a bunch of other stands will open over the next few weeks.

Here's our annual rundown of a bunch of seasonal ice cream stands, with opening dates. In some cases the dates are TBA, or we just couldn't find out (yet). So if you can fill in some of the information in the comments, we'd very much appreciate it.

Because ice cream.

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Proposed state legislation would allow dogs in outdoor dining areas

otto through dunkin door

No matter how many times we explain the law to Otto, he just doesn't seem to understand.

In New York State it is against the law to allow a dog in a restaurant -- even (technically) on an outdoor patio. But a bill sponsored by Assembly member Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) would open the door for dogs to legally be in outdoor eating areas.

The bill includes a bunch of qualifications for allowing dogs in these areas -- here are just a few:

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Sonic's planning to open in Latham this summer

sonic indoor seating location rendering

Sonic is typically a drive-in, eat-outside type of fast food place. But as it's moved into areas of the country with colder winters, Sonic has added locations with indoor seating.

Long in circulation, now official: Sonic will be opening its first Capital Region location at 701 Troy Schenectady Rd in Latham (AKA where Route 7 intersects with Wade Road).

The fast food chain says it's planning a June opening for the location. From a press release: "In advance of the June grand opening, the site will undergo a $2 million remodel to transform it into a state-of-the-art SONIC Drive-In complete with traditional drive-in stalls, a drive-thru window and indoor dining. The location will employ close to 50 local Albany residents in a variety of jobs, including the iconic skating Carhops."

Sonic says it's planning at least 8 locations around the Capital Region over the next seven years in "Albany, Latham, Schenectady, Troy, Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park, Amsterdam and the surrounding areas."

The chain has been looking at the Albany area since at least a year ago. It's been moving into upstate New York over the last few years. It now has locations in Watertown, Rochester, Binghamton, and the Middletown/Newburgh area, with Syracuse and Buffalo in the pipeline. Last year the company said it had plans for 27 locations around upstate. Nationwide there are more 3,500 Sonics.

Sonic is fast food -- burgers, fries, hot dogs. It's one of those things that people have often mentioned they've wanted to open here. Now they can mark it off their lists. (And watch as a We Want Chick-fil-A sleeper cell activates amid the limeade-induced chaos in order to recruit new members.)

Taxable sandwiches and other foods that are taxed, unless they're not

hannaford_rotisserie_chicken_cold_in_case.jpg

These roasted chickens aren't taxed because they're cold. But if you tried to buy one as it came out of the roaster -- taxed.

Sometimes things are just hilariously (and also frustratingly) complicated.

We were thinking about that today after Jon Campbell said on Twitter of the state Department and Taxation and Finance's web page explaining that sandwiches are taxable: "Is this the best page on an NYS website? Yes. Yes it is."

One of the subheads from that page: "What is considered a sandwich."

And thus we fell into the rabbit hole of what sorts of foods are -- and are not -- taxed by New York State.

A few somewhat mind-warping examples...

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Eating in Glens Falls: 5-10-15-20

Glens Falls food composite

By Deanna Fox

Glens Falls seems to be going through a bit of a culinary renaissance, with many new eateries staking out a spot in the last few years. Chefs with regional ties have come back to assert their influence on the dining scene, and longtime favorites continue to flourish with a revitalization of the downtown area.

And with much to be done between meals -- both in town and farther afield in the nearby Adirondacks -- there's no doubt you could spend a full day in and around Glens Falls.

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The Scoop

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