Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Eat: Prime Bar + Grill

There's just something about Prime Bar + Grill that I really like... I just haven't quite put my finger on it yet. It's different from both National & 677 . Even more so from Tavolo and Aperitivo. Yes I know it's the more casual. dining option from Mazzone Hospitality, but let me tell you something , the food rocks just the same as all of the other restaurants. I almost feel like I want to keep this one to myself actually, because it's so good, it's right in my neck of the woods and it's not overwhelmed with the people that are there just because it's that hot spot to go. So shhhsssshhh, let's just keep this between us ok.

So I popped in on Saturday to kick off my vacation week with a quick bite, before heading back to the mountain of packing. I wasn't really meaning to have a whole big dinner, but it just kind of happened. This was my 3rd or 4th time eating there, and for some reason I had totally missed that they had a patio. Maybe it was that it was spectacularly beautiful day; the sun was dropping low into the gloaming hour and the breeze had a hint of crispness that portended of autumn's arrival...maybe is was the fantastic glass of pinot ...I'm not sure what made it so, but it was a surreal  little haven of peacefulness. 

I started off with a gnocchi appetizer that was one the features list that night. I love gnocchi, but this was made with oxtail which I don't eat. So I asked if maybe that could change it up just a bit, whatever the Chef wanted just without meat. This is the thing, I love when Chefs just do their thing and Chef Brady totally did. He sent me this beautifully balanced dish of gnocchi, zucchini, fresh local corn, chives and trumpeter mushrooms in the most delicate white wine sauce and the whole thing was finished with grated parmesan reggiano. There were little hints of spice that were perfect, just sensational really.

Then out came a little amuse bouche from the Chef....a tempura fried sweet & sour oyster...this is the deal folks, an amuse should be one bite of perfection, a  pièce de résistance  that leaves you hungering for more...mission accomplished.

I know everyone debates about the lobster roll. I  think it's because we all have some kind of special memory tied up with it and so we have this idea of what we think it should be. I have a special affinity to the hot lobster roll, but those are hard to come by around here. That's not to say that I don't love a cold lobster roll, because seriously I think I order it every time I have to opportunity. So having said all that, hands down in the Capital Region if you want a cold lobster roll, you have to go a Mazzone property. I'm sorry to all my other friends that make them, but for real, they make it exactly the way it should be done and then it gets even more delicious because of the insanely good brioche roll. I don't know how to describe it to do it justice, it's just amazingly over the top good. 

So I had been considering having some dessert, which I rarely if ever do, but I really wasn't feeling it. I just kind of wanted a cheese plate, and they didn't have one on the list. So this is what I think is spot on awesome about the service here. I had a cup of coffee and instead of bringing me my check, she brought me a cheese plate from the Chef. That is going above and beyond, really all I said was " you know I just really wanted a cheese plate, so I'm good...I'll just have a cup of coffee and take my check." Amazingly good service... Angelo if you're happen to read this, give Holly one of those special cards...Brady too because he's went above & beyond as well. 

So the sun was almost set, my dinner was complete...and I went home contentedly satiated and wrote for a while before finishing up the packing. Happiness is finding the joy in and appreciating the simple things in life... sitting alone in on the patio having a spectacular meal that evening I am so thankful for my dolce vita. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Drink: Ommegash it's Allegang!

Celebrating DC Beer Week at Dr.Granville Moore's with Chef Teddy Folkman

I have to admit something... I'm in having an affair the likes of which I haven't done in quite some time. I have always loved wine. I am a wine drinker....and yes a scotch afficianado for sure. For me, the idea of having a beer with dinner would have been as likely as taking spaceship to the moon. But here I am, smack in the middle of wild romance with Craft Beer. 

So enthralled am I though, that I found myself travelling last week for just over ten hours to get to a beer dinner in DC ...and I am so thrilled that I did. What an awesome experience that was. The concept was Ommegang & Allegash beers paired side by side with each course of the dinner. Chef Teddy just knocked it out of the park with the dinner too..For real, you know what you're having a great dinner and some time in the midst of it you realize that you're just loving every single bite. That was this dinner. What's exciting to me too is that being such a beer novice I was learning a ton of stuff, which just turns me on in general. 

So beyond all that I have to tell you all about Granville Moore's. I love going to a place for the first time and feeling like it's been my place forever. Where the people are genuine, real people that are just about great food, great beer and having a great time. I love that while I was wearing a cocktail dress & pearls walking in to a room full of hipsters,  for some reason I fit right in too. I think that's the essence of the art hospitality, to make each person feel welcome, valued and comfortable. When I walked in Teddy said, "Welcome to my home!" and gave me a big hug...and that is what it feels like. Well done, my friend....thank you!

  First Course

  Second Course

 Third Course 

Main Course


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Foodtastic Hampton’s Adventure

It was a simple plan really, I was just going to the Hampton’s to work for a day or so, a short stop in the City  on the way and a little R& R with Donna. …but oh my friends, that was just the very beginning. It turned in to a whirlwind 4 Day Foodtastic Adventure.

It all started when Yono got wind of the plan, then Alex was leaving to go around the world and the ever fabulous Erma was entertaining. Oh boy! So we started off in the City at sis’s last happy hour at the NY Beer Company, where it just so happens that when you ordered a cocktail and they bring you two! Who knew…so that was good times and fun had by all. Then Donna, Yono and I headed over to Todd English’s place Ca Va. We just love Ca Va, it’s one of those places with great food & great hospitality, and everything is simply well executed. So there are some pictures on my Facebook if you want to check them out. Then it was back over to NY Beer Company where sis was still enjoying the last of the NY night outs. Let’s just say they were well stocked in Macallen 18 and I was a happy camper. 

Although not a happy camper when I got up at 430am to catch the Jitney out to the Hamptons….oy, seriously y’all that was a little rough….So out I go to Watermill to work in the blistering heat to get this event set for the next day. I was working with Michael George’s and the folks from Casa Lever. What an amazing experience! I had almost forgotten how different catering in the City is…the over the top events and the exactitude of the minutia of details. They literally built Rome, otherwise known as Super Saturday, in 3 days. This company was ridiculously organized and well run, which is explains why they landed this huge, high profile event. Just sayin, it was very cool to be around again.
So after a grueling day in the sweltering heat, I wandered into town to wait for Donna & Yono to meet me on their way to East Hampton. And this is when life presented me with one of those fun little happy accidents…I saw a bar named “Foody’s”. Ok I had to go to a bar named Foody’s ! 

What’s on tap, all local beers of course! So I had a Bluepoint Summer Ale… yeah, holy schnikeys I had never understood the beer after a long day thing until this very day. It was like nectar of the Gods. So I’m looking through the menu and I was like, ok I’ll just try something simple…because truth be told I was so tired I couldn’t really think so much. So I get my old standby, a tomato mozzarella on ciabatta. The bread was out of control, the sandwich was out of control. I was like what in the hell, where am I, this is delicious! So of course, me being me, I can’t control myself so I start talking with the server. So she tells me that the owner Bryan is really into local products and that everything they have there is local. The Ciabatta is from Blue Duck Bakery in South Hampton, the tomatoes are from a local farm-stand and the mozzarella is handmade locally. She tells me that the place’s motto is “Farm Fresh to Table” and then goes on to tell me about the bumper sticker on Bryan’s car that says “No Farms, No Food”. So it turns out that I have stumbled into the coolest little restaurant…and then it gets better. Bryan comes in and we end up chatting on and off for about 2 hours. So Bryan heads up a Slow Food chapter in long Island, he’s helping with Let’s Move, he’s doing dirt to table experiences and has a community garden program that he does in schools…he gets it. 

Next stop, Erma’s house! She was making her chocolate grande marnier tart when we arrived …the house smelled like chocolate nirvana. Then we went to an East Hampton institution, a restaurant with a Lobster Roll so fabulous I was sworn to secrecy about which actual place we went to, lest I ruin it for the locals. So let’s just say this, it lived up to the hype and I have pictures to prove it… And that was the beautiful end to that day.

Back to work in the morning, this time in the kitchen. So let me explain, on parties this big you basically make one or two things all day and that’s your job. It’s the only way to really make it work and to not get in the weeds. There were in the neighborhood of 35 chefs & cooks in the kitchen tent, everyone with their specific one or two jobs. It was again beyond organized, so much so that it impressed even me. So I was in charge of Pasta Freddo Fiesta: Rigatoni with Fresh Peas, Asparagus, Corn, Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Ricotta, and a few other things that I can’t remember. It was all going just fine until it stated to rain, not drip drip rain….we need to build an ark kind of rain. Yeah it was good times. 

Oh totally forgot to mention to, my favorite part of the kitchen experience (aside from the beautiful Italian chefs speaking Italian all day, thank Eion for hooking me up with this gig just for that alone) was the fact that there was a horse paddock about 15 feet from the tent and the horse were neighing and calling out to us all day, just kind of amusing. So how do you wrap up a day like that, well since I made a bunch of new friends and needed a lift, I piled into a car with 7 people…count them 7 (4 Ecuadorians, 2 Puerto Rican, and  a Russian ) can I just say, that was the funniest car ride ever. 

An hour later I’m off to party with Donna & Yono that Erma was catering for friends of hers in East Hampton. So I had always heard the Erma could cook….oh no no, this woman can hold it down for real! She does simple, elegant food with subtle nuances…totally giving a shout out to Ladycake Marmalade, which is the name of her Catering Co! Erma made this hummus that had flax seed and peanut butter, out of control amazing. I could have eaten the whole bowl. And she makes an heirloom tomato pie that is rustic and perfect. And the vegan spinach & artichoke dip she somehow managed to make heart healthy and yummy (I didn’t know that was possible, but she totally nailed it)…and that was just to get started. So the party got going and there were just the most lovely people, so much fun. Before you know it we were doing zumba on the back porch which turned into dancing all night. Satiated with great food, wine and dancing we floated back to Erma’s.

Next morning it was up and at ‘em…Donna gave me the nickel tour of Southampton and it was back to the Jitney for me while they stayed and partied on. I was in to NYC and then back to Albany wrapping up a Whirlwind 4 Day Foodtastic Hamptons Adventure!

For more pictures check out my Facebook!

Eat: Brian Bowden is Growing Greatness at Creo

So it needs to be said that I have the best job on Earth. I had been teaching French Classics at Different Drummer's all day and needed a little glass of wine afterwards, so I moseyed on over to Creo for a quick pick me up. Well I had the opportunity to catch up with Chef Brian Bowden and Chef Elliot Cunniff (who happened to be there roasting off some pork shoulder for a catered event). These guys are just awesome... just totally cool down to earth people. By the way, I've decided to start a series of Chef Interviews, something like a 10 questions or whatnot, so that you all can get to know the chefs as people, and these guys are at the top of the list. 

Anyway, I was sitting at the bar chatting with Elliot and out comes this beautiful plate:

It was one of the night's features...now this was about a month ago so if I mess up the details cut me some slack...It was a napoleon of sorts, a stack of tuna tartare, green, red, and yellow heirloom tomatoes, crostini, pesto, balsamic reduction and something that was beyond fabulous that I can't remember (ack! I have since learned to take notes, because try to get an item description from a chef a week or a month later). It was beautiful, so fresh, so perfectly balanced. I loved it....and with the sauvignon blanc I was drinking, life was good!

So I just kind of love how Brian is so invested in doing things the right way. I love the rooftop garden (and guys, I really want to see it hint, hint) concept. In fact, I believe they grew those gorgeous tomatoes! It's just awesome....period.

But wait there's more! My mother shows up with my son and wants to have dinner. Can I tell you, I'm somewhat obsessed with their Saratoga Chips now....I know not healthy, whatever they are god damn delicious!

So by this point I was getting a little full, but you know I'll take one for the team. Mom had the Veal Chop with Colossal Crab Meat, Asparagus, Whipped Potato, Veal Jus and lemon butter. I saw her eyes roll back in her head a little and she was pretty effusive, and my son was stealing the asparagus from her like they were french fries....so I'm going to do with it was probably pretty amazing.

I had the wild mushroom pizza, which I am somewhat obsessed with. The earthiness of the wild mushrooms, the sweetness of the caramelized onions, the slight tang to the cheeses and then the hint of truffle oil....time out...let's just take a moment and think about how awesome that is.

Just when I think life can't get any better...it does....

Brian sends out this enormous platter of ice cream. Vanilla, Chocolate, and Wasabi Ice Cream...for real! Handmade ice cream is a thing of beauty, seriously I love making ice cream so I can fully appreciate it. Well, this wasabi ice cream blew my mind! It was cooler than cool, yet it was hot, but it wasn't...Awesome!

So many thanks to Chef Brian for amazing dinner! I think he's such a talent and I'm so thrilled that he has taken the reigns at Creo...that's just good stuff!

Things That Make Me Go Yum: Jon Simmon's Heirloom Tomato Salad

This just passed through my news feed and I literally did a double take. It looked so fresh and beautiful, I instantly let out an "oh yum!". So I had to share it with you all:
Baby Heirloom Tomatoes, Arugula and Homemade Buttermilk Cracker
By the way, do you all know about Jon Simmons? He's the Executive Chef at Classé Catering. He's one of those people that is just super nice and does great stuff with food while being totally humble about it. I can't say enough good things about Chef Jon!

Summertime Whirlwind

So let me apologize for not posting in a bit. Summertime in the Capital Region is super fun, but it is also insanely busy for those of us in the event world...and while I have re-defined busy I have had an amazing summer thus far...hope you all have too!

So this is basically how my summer went down...first there was the staycation at Ledgemoor, then there was the Ronald McDonald House Golf Tournament, then Hop Chef Albany, then the Friendship Community Garden Chef event, then there were the teaching weeks of French Classics & Italian Classics at Different Drummer's Kitchen, and then there was Yono's Scholarship Foundation Golf Tournament, and then there was the NYC/ Hamptons Foodtastic Adventure, and then  there was Belgium Comes to Cooperstown and the Hop Chef Grande Finale in Cooperstown, and then Chef Teddy's Ommegang for Allegash Dinner in DC book-ended with meetings in NYC.  Next up going to Wildwood on family vacation for the next week before wrapping up the summer with International Cooking Camp at Different Drummer's Kitchen.

Sandwich that all in with a bunch of board meetings, growing my business and being super mom and you can see why I've been a little bit of a slacker about posting....but I've been taking copious notes and tons of pictures so get ready, put on your seat-belts because I'm back!