Saturday, September 29, 2012

Keeping it Fresh: Epicurean Bistro & Wine Bar Fall Menu

I was just at Epicurean Bistro & Wine Bar this Wednesday and got a look at the new fall menu. Let me tell you it just sounds awesome! I love classic French food and Chef Dominique Brialy is nothing short of amazing.

Gratinée d'Oignons au Cidre de Pomme 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Do Good: Bake For You's MRE Cookie

Bake for You is doing a special new cookie this weekend at the Farmer's Market. It's called the MRE. In a nut shell it is peanut butter, roasted nuts and M&M's...ummmm, yeah can we say delicious. So then it gets even sweeter, Linda is going to donate a portion of proceeds from the sale of these special cookies to the Wounded Warrior Project, a cause that is near and near to my heart.

So why M &M's you ask...well check this out from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media:
"the real success of M&Ms apparently came when it was issued as part of U.S. service personnel rations because its hard outer shell made of sugar prevented it from melting before being eaten. Soldiers came home eating M&Ms, and its particular appropriateness to all climates was encapsulated in the slogan (coined in 1954): “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth—not in your hand.”M&Ms were not the only chocolate issued to soldiers. The Hershey company, at the request of the army, developed a chocolate ration that would sustain a soldier who had nothing else to eat and could be carried in his pocket unmelted. Throughout the war, Hershey turned out a half million bars a day of “Ration D,” a 4-ounce, 600-calorie chocolate bar."

So other quick reasons why I love my job other than getting awesome info like this...stopping by Bake for You and tasting cookies!:

Things That Make Me Go Yum: Yono's Seared Georges Bank Scallop

Seared Georges Bank Scallop/ Cipollini Onion/ Silky Kabocha Squash/ Shiitake/ Crispy Sage/ Red Ribbon Sorrel
I just love Yono's Restaurant...everything they do is just exceptional; so when I say this come across my facebook feed I had to share it. Seriously, I need to have this!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Eat: Mingle's Spicy Sensation

It's ironic how things happen sometimes. I had heard about Mingle for months from my friend Britin Foster from All Good Bakers. She kept saying all these wonderful things about this guy Jose Andrew, who was their new neighbor when they moved in to their new location over on Delaware. I thought that was nice, it seemed like a great neighborhood feel was developing over there with AGB, Mingle and now the Cheese Traveler. It's actually pretty cool in my book how they're all working together and supporting each other's efforts. So as it turned out, last weekend Britin needed some help with the Harvest Festival at Washington Park and so I offered to help out. Well our booth was smack dab in between Mingle and New World Bistro Bar...lucky me! So through the course of the day I got a chance to talk to Jose who he really is, as Britin says, the nicest guy in Albany. And I love that by the way, when someone is super nice and passionate about what they do and helping's just good stuff! So fast forward to Tues...I get a text from Chef Rachel Mabb from New World Bistro Bar and she's got a hankering to go out for a cocktail and little nosh....and what do you know, she suggests going to Mingle. So that's the lead in....

Let's start with the wine's not huge, but this is the thing it's a solid mix of nice selections that are all just easy drinkable. I kinda tasted a couple of things and not because I was meaning to but it was the way the night evolved, more about that later...It was a damp fall day, and I was feeling malbec so that was the jumping off point...really not thinking of pairings or anything, just what I had a taste for ya know. Rachel has been on a cider and spicy kick for a bit now, which by the way I think Ric's food has got to be rubbing off on her.

 So we start out with Pan Fried Yakimondu and the "Flavors of DelSo" Cheeseboard. Now I wasn't even close to thinking about having a cheeseboard, but then I get the description and I am such a sucker for good cheese.... I just can't resist.
 "Flavors of Del-So Cheese Board"...Our board is a "3 level" balanced 4 cheese platter, provided by "The Cheese Traveler," featuring: L1- Shushan Snow, L2- Pawlett & Abby's Gouda, L3- Ewe's Blue. The cheeses are paired with 4 ounce servings of Switchback Ale, Blue Point Toasted Lager & Harpoon IPA or 2 ounce servings of Gazela Vinho Verde, Loredona Pinot Grigio & Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc. Served with fresh fruit and specialty crackers baked by "All Good Baker's."  

Then it was on to the entrees; we had both ordered Korean dishes at various levels of spice. Now it has been years since I've had real Korean food...not since my ballet days in New York when my friends looked more like a UN delegation than a conservatory, but oh how I loved those days. It's funny very few of us spoke the same language, yet we would have dinner together when we weren't dancing; our language, our communication rather, was through food. So many wonderful memories learning how to appreciate each other's cultural foods and they all came flooding back to me as my plate was placed in front of me and the aromas wafted up. Anyway, I digressed but I just love when smells and tastes can transport you, to make a memory come to life.  

 I had Ojingo Bokkum which is Calamari stir-fry with flavorful miso and spicy gochujang, sautéed with tofu, soybean sprouts, zucchini, and scallions.  It was simply incredible, it tasted so authentically of the Korean flavors that I loved, so unlike anything I've eaten in Upstate. It was divine even as the heat of the gochujang totally kicked my ass, made my nose run and subsequently made me suck down a glass of vouvray in about 4 minutes flat. By the way take note, if you're ever in a postion where the spice is a little intense, a nice sweeter wine will totally help balance that out. I loved every delicious bite of it though. 

Rachel had the Meat Lover's  Bokkum...sesame and soy marinated beef & chicken along with pork belly sautéed with Chef's house-made kimchi & spicy gochujiang. Served with sticky rice and a chilled seaweed "namools."   Hers was more of a smokey smouldering heat that hits you after it settles for a minute, where mine was a bold smack you up front, straight-up chile sensation. Either way they were both sensational dishes, well executed and just truly authentc. 

On top of the fabulous food, what I love about Mingle is the nice, easy going atmosphere that's fresh and vibrant, chic yet comfortable. There's just great energy in the whole place and it's certainly somewhere that I can see myself stopping by much more often.

Keeping it Fresh: All Good Bakers Fall Menu

Keeping it Fresh: New World Bistro Bar Fall Menu

Yay! Can I just say that I love season change and seeing all the new menus come out! This just in from my friends over at New World Bistro Bar...and can I tell you how excited I am to try the “ASOPAO” de MARISCOS!

It seems like the resolution on these jpegs isn't coming through so here's the link to their online menu:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Do Good: Autumn is a Season of Giving in the Capital Region

This season is jam packed with food-centric charitable events between the Food & Wine Tastings, Chef Competitions and  Festivals. They all benefit different organizations but the common denominator is that same core group of chefs that just keep on giving & giving of their time, talent and treasure for our community. I would love to put together a list of all of the chefs involved in everything, but it is so extensive that will take a bit of work.

So here you have it, a list of the best foodie/charitable events that I know of going on over the next two months. I am going to list the contact folks that I know, maybe not the official event organizer but they can certainly help you out if you need more info. Also where available I have provided a link under the event name.

Sept  13 - Feast of the Fields benefiting Saratoga PLAN
Sept 20 - Autumn Evening in the Garden at  Franklin Terrace to benefit Capital District Community Gardens 
Sept 20- Drink Pink at The Point  benefiting Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Contact: Jeffrey Decatur
Sept 23rd -
Local Harvest Festival - Honest Weight Food Co-op ( Britin Foster can help you if you need info)
Sept 28- Hallowine at Altamont Winery -Chef Competition is that day - Franca DiCrescenzo benefiting the Wildwood Program 
Sept 29th - Taste of Elegance  at Pat's Barn - Marla Ortega is helping on that one. 
Oct 12 - FUSION presented by the Albany Barn & The Albany Chefs'Food & Wine Festival benefiting Albany Barn. Contact Jeff Mirel or you can just ask me!
Oct 18th - 2012 Harvest Evening Celebration featuring a Chef's Challenge...(which I happen to be competing in...oy heart attack, my last time competing was in 1998)...benefits the Capital Region Food Pantries
Oct 18th - Visions of Strength Wine Tasting ( awesome event btw) Contact: Sabrina Mosseau benefitting Visions of Strength which is a phenomenal local cancer organization
Oct 23rd-
March of Dimes Signature Chef Challenge   Contact :Janice Nash or me for this one too! Also link to their FB event listing is here.

Things That Me Go Yum: Monkey Bread!

Ok so yes, I made it....but I have to share. I have never in my life had monkey bread, yes I know there are lots of little flukes like that. Anyway, this stuff is amazing! It's like little bits of deliciousness that you just can't stop eating. Yes, literally I had to move it to the other room because Parry and I just can't stop...

Oh and by the's still warm and my kitchen smells like heaven!

Keeping it Fresh: Wine Bar & Bistro Fall Menu

Thanks to Chef Kevin Everleth of the Wine Bar & Bistro on Lark for sending this over! And by the way, I can't wait to try the scallops they sound amazing!

Keeping it Fresh: Jack's Oyster House Fall Menu

Thanks to Chef Larry Schepici of  Jack's Oyster House for sending over his new fall menus!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

2013 Festival Image: The Making of the Bottle

I think it was March when it came to me. I had been thinking about what we were going to do with the bottle, which was designed in typography and contained the jumbled up letters and numbers actually contained the 2012 date so it needed to change. I was thinking that we kept wanting the image to have a more artistic feel to it, after all we are a Festival that benefits the arts. So I was thinking, and thinking....and then it came to me...why not have an artist paint the bottle and then we could turn that into the create a mixed media graphic that would combine an old world master style oil painting merged with a modern graphic design. I thought that would be a relatively easy process... well, easy is not the descriptor that I would use today, but a process it was for sure. 

I had an image in my head of what this bottle should look like and the challenge now was to find an artist that  see that vision and turn it into a painting. 

Enter Tony Iadicicco, Artist and Executive Director of Albany Center Gallery. I knew and loved Tony's work, so we sat down to talk. He  sketched, as I talked asking a thousand questions. I think he knew where I was going with it. So the process had begun.

One of the unique challenges that I gave Tony was that the new bottle had to have the exact proportions as the old bottle so that it could be incorporated into the website and other marketing materials. Next there was the issue of style, to me it had to be a green glass bottle and it needed to have an old master feel. I wanted to see brush stroking that was like some of the later Monet's, and the use of vibrant color to give it depth and dimension. So Tony would paint and send me an image, and I would give feed back and he would paint some more. He was AMAZING to work with, and seriously has the patience of a saint to deal with my perfectionism. And then one day, there it was the bottle was done, it looked like the bottle in my head. 

And now came the tricky do we get the painting into the computer. No one had a scanner big enough, the painting is over 3 feet in length and too wide. And then I had the crazy people at Kinko's suggest that we take it off the stretchers. So I did a hail Mary and called David Carroll over at the Albany Institute of History & Art , I figured if they can put stuff on exhibit into a brochure the must be able to do it. It turns out the have the fantastic woman on staff, Allison Munsell who is a digitization specialist. She was fantastic in about an hour she had the painting scanned and put into vector format and sent up to our graphic designer. Now we were cooking!

Next on the scene, enter WSG's Danielle McMahon. She is a kick ass, fabulous designer. For real this woman gets in my head. So I know she was a little nervous, because she has literally hit a home run with every project I have ever given her, and this was probably the most important one to date. I mean imagine that you're dealing with me (yeah I know, that in itself is enough to make someone need a drink) saying, "ok I need you to take this painting, create a wine label that includes the Festival logo, that is simple and clean, that can be iconic enough to last for years but has the flexibility to change slightly each year..oh and I need it yesterday. "

Danielle sent me four images, all were fantastic. They went before our Festival BOD and the final was selected. It was seven months in the making, but the image was compete and introduced yesterday. I was a tremendous collaboration and I can not thank Tony, Allison, and Danielle enough for making the vision come to life.

Tony's Painting will be up for the Live Auction at the Grand Gala Dinner of this year's Albany Chefs' Food & Wine Festival. Tickets for Festival go on sale October 1. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Things That Make Me Go Yum: All Good Bakers Peach Cobbler

Ok folks, this was the Peach Cobbler special at All Good Bakers today! Doesn't it look AMAZING!

Peach Cobbler with Peach/Caramel Semifreddo
In case you're not familiar with All Good Bakers, let me tell you a little bit about them. Nick & Britin Foster and AGB came on to my radar last year when Nick was nominated to be a Rising Star for the 2012 Albany Chefs' Food & Wine Festival. Through the process of vetting them out, I learned a lot about this great couple and their philosophy of bringing their customers "Real, Local, Clean Food".  They are the real deal folks, they totally practice what the preach, and they are just super knowledgeable too. Actually, let me share with you something from their website about their philosophy:


Our dairy is free of rBST, GMOs, hormones & excessive antibiotics; our grains are mostly organic and never genetically modified; produce & cheeses are at least produced under organic (or "beyond organic") practices.  From Spring to late Fall, we source about 90% of our ingredients from vendors at the Saturday Delmar Farmers Market (all of the producers come from within 30 miles and have committed to sustainable production methods). That means the materials we work with have traveled from healthy soil (picked ripe and recently), loaded into our farmers' truck and transferred to our bus at market, straight to the shop about 5 miles away, where we work with what's in season and fresh.  We've spoken at length with each producer as we have gotten to know them over the years, and they all care deeply (as do we) about the same thing:providing clean, ultra-fresh, nutritious and delicious foods to you." ~ All Good Bakers

By the way, in the process of learning about them I also fell madly in love with Nick's Truffle Shuffle which is the best grilled cheese sandwich I've ever had. Oh and it's made with R& G Cheesemaker's Truffle Falls...need I say more!

And then they also have these incredible vegan cinnamon buns that my son is just absolutely loves:

So I know you're all salivating now, so go stop by and see Nick & Britin at All Good Baker's excellent new storefront at 540 Deleware Ave!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Things That Make Me Go Yum: Jack's Chocolate Symphony

Holy Schnikeys! This literally just stopped my in my tracks and interrupted my whole train of thought. Yes Chef Larry, you have my attention now I will be stopping in very soon!

Layers of chocolate genoise, chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The littlest chefs have arrived!

Seems like there is something in the water these days...the first of the littlest chefs have arrived!

My warmest wishes and congratulations to Chef Marla Ortega on the birth of her son Alexander and to Chef Brian Bowden on the birth of his son Jackson!
Alexander Ortega
Jackson Bowden

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Drink: Robert Mack's Masterful Martini

It happened one night late this summer...It was one of those long unbearable hot days where the stress level had been riding at about a nine and half throughout. I was tired and just slightly miserable, but oh so happy to be home after vacation. As an aside, by home I mean walking into in dp an American Brasserie which I lovingly call my second office. I sat down next to Yono at the end of the bar, waved hello to other fun friends that happened to be in, then finally saying hello to Robert. 

He looks at me quizzically in the way that he does, and asks if it's a Stoli & tonic night or if we're doing wine...yes I know, I'm a little ocd and if it's hot I'm ordering either Tito's or Stoli & Tonic or Sauvignon Blanc, that's just the way it is...I think about it and I spy Yono's frosty martini glass and something just spoke to me. I must have a martini. 

 "A Martini?" says Robert with a cock of the head...this was a total digression for my usual routine. 

"Yes, a vodka martini with a hint of citrus, just nice and smooth please." says I....and then I had that moment that I have with certain chefs where I think, wait a minute this guy is amazing at what he does, why am I  telling him how to make it. So I say to him to just do your thing....

I don't know that I have words to describe the perfection of this cocktail. It was so smooth it tasted like ice water, but it was better than that...kind of like when you're hiking and you take a drink from a really cold stream up mountain and it tastes soft and pure.  That was this cocktail, it was just simply divine.