Items tagged with 'food'

Good brunch spots in/near Schenectady?

french toastLindsay emails:

I just moved to Schenectady, and I'm wondering if anyone has good recommendations for brunch spots (especially those with bars) for Saturday/Sunday mornings.
I've tried Union Cafe, which has fantastic service, darn good pancakes, and tasty Greek eats. Eating on the patio in the sun is nice (although the view leaves something to be desired), and there is no alcohol served (i.e., cravings for a bloody mary or mimosa go un-quenched).
Any tips from the AOA community would be greatly appreciated.

Lindsay mentions that she's been following Lauren's brunch mini-tour. But that hasn't made it to Schenectady, yet. So if you have suggestions for Lindsay, they can also double has possible spots for Lauren to check out.

So, got a good place in mind? Please share. And, as always, a sentence or two about why you're suggesting that place is like an extra kick of horseradish in the Bloody Mary.

Pick-your-own blueberry season 2015

box of blueberries at samascott

We are into the thick of blueberry season around the greater Capital Region. And as we've mentioned before, blueberries are just about our favorite pick-your-own crop because they're easy to pick (on bushes about waist high), relatively cheap (usually between $2-$3 per pound), and they freeze beautifully, so you can stock up for later in the year.

There are a handful of farms around the Capital Region that offer pick-your-own blueberries. Here's a list with some info. And, of course, if you know of a place that should be on the list, please share.

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Suggestions for a meal delivery service?

beet carpaccioDana emails:

We're expecting a baby soon and were looking for a meal delivery service in the Capital District. Not necessarily to lose weight, but something that's somewhat healthy, delivered cold, but that can be warmed up for meals, so we don't have to worry about meals every night once the baby's here. I've only seen services in other larger metropolitan areas, but not in ours. Any ideas/suggestions?

We are, of course, interested in hearing about local suggestions. But we've also noticed recently there are some web-based companies that offer shipments of meals or pre-prepped meal ingredients. So maybe that's a related option. (We really have no idea -- we have not seen those services in action.) Or maybe you can think of a different angle -- like, say, small-scale catering -- that could work.

So, got a suggestion for Dana and family? Please share!

Brunching about: Tala Bistro

tala bistro exterior

By Lauren Hittinger

Lauren has set out to survey a handful of brunch spots around the Capital Region for a short series.

I'll admit it. I am one of those people that tends to pass over suburban eateries, especially if they're located inside of a strip mall or plaza. In that way, I have become an urbanite, gravitating towards the downtown areas in the Capital Region. The only problem with this perspective is that you can miss out on some interesting places that are still locally owned.

An example of such a place is Tala, a Mazzone Hospitality restaurant located on New Loudon Road in Latham. I'm glad I abandoned my city preferences and visited this modern, bistro-style restaurant as part of my brunch investigation. Plus, as this was the suburbs, there was no Sunday morning test of parallel parking skill.

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New York State set to raise fast food minimum wage to $15 per hour

fast food wage increase schedule chart

The state Fast Food Wage Board has recommended that the minimum wage for fast food employees across New York State rise to $15 per hour -- eventually.

The board's recommendation, which now heads to the state labor commissioner before it can take effect, lays out two tracks for increasing the industry's minimum wage, for New York City and areas outside the city:

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Sovrana's gets the tabloid treatment

Laura W emails:

I was eating dinner at Sovrana's yesterday and got to hear the hilarious story from the owners John & Rose about how TMZ ordered pizzas from them, shipped to CA. Rose had no idea who [TMZ founder] Harvey Levin is, but she dutifully fulfilled their orders. They are such a charming couple and a great asset to Albany.

(Steve mentioned the TMZ appearance today over on Table Hopping, too.)

It's true -- Sovrana's pizza does have that distinctive crust.

And to think TMZ missed out on Death in a Cup -- that seems much more like tabloid fare.

Also: Sometimes the modern world is strange.

(Thanks, Laura!)

Dosas at Parivar

parivar dosa

A masala dosa.

By Deanna Fox

There are universal norms when it comes to street foods around the planet: It must be cheap, it must be portable, and it must be filling.

Dosas are the classic Indian-style version of a crepe that hits all these markers. And Parivar -- the Central Avenue Indian supermarket (No, not that one. Or that one. It's the one with the peacock on the sign.) -- serves them up fresh and piping-hot, just like one would get from a vendor's street cart in an alleyway in New Delhi or Mumbai.

But unlike a street cart, Parviar lets the eater indulge from the comfort of indoor seating in a nice air-conditioned café.

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Follow forward: The Wine Bar and Bistro on Lark

Wine Bar and Bistro Exterior.jpg

Soon to be under new ownership.

AOA is taking things a little easy this week for summer break. So we thought it'd be a good time to catch up with some local businesses we've covered during the last year (or so) and find out how things are going. But our last post of the week flips things a bit -- we're looking to the future of a local business that's changing hands.

Nine years ago, chef Kevin Everleth opened The Wine Bar and Bistro on Lark and turned a small wine and tapas bar into a popular neighborhood jewel. The food was always delicious, the staff was always welcoming, and the wine selection was always varied and interesting.

But Everleth is fond of saying about restaurants, "I buy them, I build them, and I sell them." And so, after nine years, he says it's time for him to move on. This week Everleth announced that he is selling The Wine Bar to one of his employees, Silvia Lilly, who currently works at the restaurant a few nights a week. (Lilly is a school librarian by day. And, of course, she lives in Albany's Delaware Ave neighborhood.)

Lilly has never owned a restaurant, but she's been working in Capital Region restaurants for more than 20 years and she's passionate about the business. And she's excited about carrying on the business Everleth founded.

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Follow up: Brew

Brew - Josh and August.jpg

AOA is taking things a little easy this week for summer break. So we thought it'd be a good time to catch up with some local businesses we've covered during the last year (or so) and find out how things are going.

Next up: a look at Brew. Almost exactly one year ago Joshua Cotrona, who owned the Fuzz Records shop at the corner of State and Lark in Albany partnered with August Rosa to turn the space into Brew, a beverage shop featuring craft beer and specialty coffees.

A year ago Rosa told us why they were opening a craft beverage shop on Lark Street:

The idea came up when we realized the need for a craft beer outlet in the Center Square neighborhood. We decided to expand the offerings to include coffee, teas, and other beverages down the road. Our shop will help residents in downtown Albany skip a trip out to the suburbs for these items.

A year later, they're still there educating customers about craft brews, hosting tastings, and balancing their dreams with the wants and needs of a constantly changing neighborhood.

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Follow up: Collar City Hard Pressed

collar city hard pressed 2015 jessica

By Lauren Hittinger

AOA is taking things a little easy this week for summer break. So we thought it'd be a good time to catch up with some local businesses we've covered during the last year (or so) and find out how things are going.

Next we're revisiting Collar City Hard Pressed (CCHP). When we first interviewed owner Jessica Garrity, now Jessica Quijano, she was running her business solely at the Saturday Troy farmers' market. Since then, she has moved to working full-time for her juice and smoothie business, taking up residence on Broadway in downtown Troy.

A snippet from March 2014:

"I found myself basically obsessed with fresh juice and smoothies and was suddenly annoyed that there wasn't a place in my neighborhood where I could get any. I kind of hate leaving my neighborhood on the weekend so just thought it was only fair that we had a juice place here downtown. I also recognized that juicing was a pretty trendy business and thought downtown Troy would be a great place to get to work."

I caught up with Quijano to see what it's like to be running a small business on her own, and to get the scoop on the different reactions to a juice bar in downtown Troy.

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Follow up: Bread and Honey

bread and honey 2015 July exterior

Bread and Honey is in the commercial strip on Madison Ave between Quail and Ontario.

AOA is taking things a little easy this week for summer break. So we thought it'd be a good time to catch up with some local businesses we've covered during the last year (or so) and find out how things are going.

First up is Bread and Honey in Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood. Owner Naomi Davies opened the artisan bakery in March of 2014 after a major renovation of the storefront at 809 Madison Ave. She has a background in construction management (and dance before that), and consulting on the new Honest Weight location had sparked the idea of opening a bakery.

A quick clip from 15 months ago:

"I learned so much about retail and food, just being with people who really cared about what they did and how they did it," she said recently as we stood in the bakery space. "And getting to know how they work, I saw an opportunity for a bakery here in Albany that could provide good, fresh, artisan breads. And I was craving a great bagel."

We got a chance to catch up with her last week -- and it was some real talk about what's it like to run a small, local business.

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Brunching about: Iron Gate Cafe

Iron Gate Cafe exterior front

By Lauren Hittinger

Lauren has set out to survey a handful of brunch spots around the Capital Region for a short series.

A tour of brunch locations wouldn't be complete without a visit to Iron Gate Café. This spot is well beloved, and I received many suggestions to stop by on my great breakfast quest.

I'm not surprised that people love this quirky downtown Albany spot, since it has a gorgeous patio and brisk service. If you're looking for a simple, savory, and satisfying breakfast, Iron Gate is the place.

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Mini hot dogs from Pete's Pups

petes pups rotterdam mini hotdogs

By Deanna Fox

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.

(there's more)

New York closer to $15/hour for fast food workers?

state fast food wage board screengrab

Buffalo mayor Byron Brown, chair of the fast food wage board, at Monday's meeting. / screengrab: NYS DOL livestream

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.

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Latham Sonic now open

sonic logoThe 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]

Sweet: Record maple syrup production in New York State

mountain winds maple syrup amber

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.

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Brunching about: Carmen's Café

carmen's cafe troy exterior 2015-June

By Lauren Hittinger

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.

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Ethiopian platter at Umana

umana ethiopian platter

By Deanna Fox

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.

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Pick your own strawberry season 2015

strawberries box strawberry field samascott

So very June.

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!

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Brunching about: City Beer Hall

City Beer Hall exterior 2015-May

By Lauren Hittinger

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.

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Naan pizza at A Better Bite

a better bite naan pizza mediterranean

By Deanna Fox

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.

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Albany Tea Festival

Overit 1.jpgThe 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)

A look inside the new Druthers Albany location

Druthers Albany dining area

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.

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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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The Scoop

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