The Pleasure & Pain of Restaurant Week
Menus are the flame, and I am the moth. So it’s especially dangerous when one of our local business districts decides to run another restaurant week promotion. This time it’s Colonie, the immediate northern suburb to Albany, which is home to many of our best chain restaurants.
Only one of those is participating in the March 18-24 event, although there are a few additional restaurants of promise. It’s the same old story, three courses for $20.12, and some of the establishments are really putting out great food while others may leave you scratching your head.
Here’s the rundown of the good, the bad and the ugly. And just remember, this is March in upstate New York. It may feel like spring, but if you check out the farmers markets it’s clear we are really in the last stages of winter.
The good news is that there are a bunch of menus that are appealing, some surprisingly so.
The classic regional institution The Purple Pub has found an interesting way of bending the Restaurant Week guidelines to its strengths. While you could get a three course meal of crab and artichoke dip with chicken parm and pie a la mode, they have a second option: a dozen wings, a large one-topping pizza, and a pitcher of soda for the same price. Brilliant. The only thing that would have been better is if they replaced the soda with beer.
Reel Seafood has never held any appeal for me. But for $20 I might be tempted to try it out, especially when I can start with ginger seared scallops drizzled with a soy sesame glaze, followed by crab stuffed shrimp finished with a lemon caper cream sauce, and chocolate brandy mousse for dessert.
It seems like The Century House gets it. Their menu starts with a winter vegetable bisque topped by a roasted garlic crouton. The best entrée would appear to be the cavatelli with porcini cream, a grana padano wafer, and mushroom ragout. I’m a sucker for bread pudding, and theirs is described as being, “made daily with fresh ingredients of the season.” It may be a little heavy for my new diet, but it sounds both delicious and hard to screw up.
This would also be a good time to try and head back to The Epicurean and see if there is something there to love. I want to love them, but right now I’m only in like with them. However I’ve never tried one of “Chef Dominique’s delightful daily soups.” Also the pork shank braised in beer and served with cabbage & cumin scented potatoes, sounds right up my alley. I know I’m not a big fan of their pot de crème or croustillant aux fruits, but I could try the Pets de Nonne – a warm pastry in a maple-caramel sauce.
Then there is The Parade of Farmed Atlantic Salmon & Other Crimes Against Food.
Shame on Milano, Reel Seafood, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Wolf Road Marriott, and Wolf’s 1-11 for serving on their menu an ingredient that isn’t good enough to be carried on the shelves at Target.
The Holiday Inn must think it’s summer because they are running both a fresh buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette and fresh basil appetizer; along with a medley of fresh berries with fresh whipped cream dessert. That’s a lot of fresh. I guess something can be fresh without it being ripe.
I shouldn’t be one to comment on anyone’s spelling. But a menu is different, and the Chicken Roulade wouldn’t fill me with confidence even if the description spelled pancetta correctly. It reads, “Chicken Breast stuffed with Panchetta, Spinach, and Sun-dried Tomatoes. Baked to a Golden Brown and served over Alfredo Sauce and topped with Marinara Sauce. Served with your choice of side.” It would be foolish to think this was actually Alfredo sauce, but two sauces don’t make a dish twice as good.
Finally there is Old Reliable
Garden Bistro 24 may also be jumping the season a bit, but at least they are aiming for spring and not summer with their spring salad, which includes radishes and asparagus. That’s not for me, and I’d opt for their roasted tomato bisque instead (although I wonder where they are getting fresh basil pesto at this time of year). But this would be a good chance to try their chicken frites, which is roasted free range chicken with French green beans and pommes frites. Dessert skips to summer with a fresh berry crepe, but a dessert crepe really sounds good.
Mrs. Fussy thinks I’m too easy on my favorite places. She may be right.
Still, juxtaposing that menu against Grandma’s Pies & Restaurant’s offering of French onion soup, “applewalnut chicken” and a slice of pie, there isn’t a doubt in my mind as to which would be the better dining experience.
Next week is going to be busy for a host of reasons, so I may not be able to make it out. But hopefully someone out there will be able to take advantage of these menus.