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Excelsior Nachos

May 22, 2017

If you will it, it is no dream.
~Theodor Herzl

There’s an open secret about even the better places in the Capital Region. You have to know what to get, and sometimes even how to order it. Which can be infuriating.

It would be much better if business owners took a long hard look at their offerings, separated the wheat from the chaff, and only sold the stuff that was truly excellent. My hunch is that the average consumer in the Capital Region isn’t all that discriminating, and the vast majority prefer having a wide selection to actually receiving truly amazing products.

But this self-perpetuating cycle is no joke. Because businesses reinforce the mediocrity by halfheartedly offering buffalo wings, but buying jarred sauces and dumping them onto carelessly prepared fried chicken. Or taking a can of curry paste, mixing it with a can of coconut milk, and tossing it with mussels. It’s lazy. And these are just two of countless sins.

Regardless of the place, what I’ve learned from years of trial and error is that almost every kitchen is capable of producing something really delicious. It’s just a matter of finding out exactly what it is, and how to order it.

Which bring us to The Excelsior Pub.

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Saturday in Saratoga

May 19, 2017

One of these days I’m going to have a quiet weekend when I can stay in bed until noon and catch up on my sleep. But that’s not in the cards for tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be epic.

But first a quick follow up to yesterday’s post on Bethlehem’s Restaurant Week. Last night I went to Romo’s as part of Third Thursday Tavern Time, which is a monthly event where a bunch of people from Yelp order a bunch of tavern staples and split the bill.

We got two orders of fried mozzarella, chicken wings, a meat stuffed Chicago style deep dish pie, the famous Gracie’s Sicilian pie, an artisan style pepperoni pie, and two orders of fried dough knots with cannoli cream. Plus we had a few pitches of Flower Power, I wasn’t counting how many, but they kept on coming. There were also some soft drinks involved. Splitting the bill eight ways, after tax and a generous tip the total came to $23 a person.

Even though that’s only $2 less than the Restaurant Week offer, our total included both drinks and gratuity. I’ll add my thought on Romo’s to Yelp soon, but it’s definitely a solid place, and I plan to return.

So let’s talk about Saturday.

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Paying More For Resto Week

May 18, 2017

Restaurant Week needs to change with the times. Food has gotten more expensive. It has. So let’s take a nice restaurant like 333 Cafe in Delmar, and look at the regular menu for a minute.

An app of roasted beets is $11. Entrees hover around $25. Let’s say dessert is $9. Put ‘em all together and that’s $45. Asking anyone to charge half of that or less for a restaurant week promotion doesn’t make much sense. So it’s no wonder that restaurants will often dumb down their Restaurant Week offerings, but that doesn’t serve anyone’s interests either.

At a place like 333 Cafe, even $30 would be a significant savings off everyday prices. If that’s not enough to bring people into the restaurant to try it out, they aren’t likely going to be an establishment’s return customers.

The above was an example of why it makes sense to pay more for restaurant week. Now let me share with you another way of paying more for restaurant week that boggles the imagination.

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Two Rivers

May 17, 2017

Today’s post is more of a thought starter than a fully developed idea, but hopefully you can go with me on this one.

Albany. We’re on the map because this region is at the intersection of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. I have the Hudson on my mind this week, because next Wednesday, Yelp is having a party aboard the Dutch Apple. If you are interested, there are still a couple spots available. But I digress.

Once upon a time, when the river was the highway, that was a big deal. And when it came time to build the railroad, they were largely constructed along the river. The idea was that at the crossroads, people could come from all around to trade their wares, and build their fortunes.

So what does this have to do with food? I’m glad you asked.

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Hot Slice

May 16, 2017

Let’s not talk about the diet. Because if I was on a diet, I wouldn’t be popping into the newly expanded Spinners location in Crestwood Plaza for a slice while running errands. Every now and again I find myself down there, because I love getting prescriptions filled at an independent pharmacy.

I’ve been a fan of Crestwood Pharmacy since I moved to Albany almost ten years ago. Let that number sink in a bit. Ten years. In fact it was around this time, ten years ago, when I made my first ever trip to Albany in an attempt to search for a rental apartment.

Man, that was not fun.

The Capital Region today is a much different place. Heck, today there’s a celebration to to welcome ride-sharing to the 518 at Wolff’s Biergarten on Broadway. Back in 2007 there was barely anyone even Yelping out here, Matt Baumgartner only had one Bombers, and Miss Albany Diner was the reason one would trek all the way out to the warehouse district.

What’s up with this walk down memory lane? Well, it has a little something to do with pizza.

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Newman Owned

May 15, 2017

Paul Newman. Good guy. Dead guy. And I hear it’s bad to speak ill of the dead. Well, how is it to drag a good person’s legacy through the dirt to earn a buck?

But all profits go to charity. Yes. That may be true. But salaries aren’t profits. Neither are bonuses. And you want to know something cool? If your company looks like it’s having record profits, you can give executives bonuses, while still giving enough money to charity to say that you’re doing it.

I have no idea how the Newman’s Own brand operates. But I accidentally ran up against some of the company’s salad dressings recently. And I have to say, I was kind of appalled. Because if Paul Newman was making his own salad dressing, what do you think would be the first ingredient?

It’s not a trick question. Think of your answer, and then click through.

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The Aromatic 12 Bottle Bar

May 12, 2017

Do you remember the 12 Bottle Bar? It started out as a blog, transitioned into a book, and has become a national sensation as it partnered with Crate & Barrel.

I’m glad to say I’ve been a fan of Lesley and David from the beginning. Mostly because I really appreciated the core concept. Home bars can definitely get away from you. They can become overwhelming. Especially for the cocktail enthusiast. There are so many base spirits, liqueurs, aperitifs, cordials, vermouths, and so on.

But you don’t need all of them. You don’t. Thankfully great bars exist where you can visit and have them make you anything you want. But the home bartender can be very content with a much smaller number of bottles. Especially if you spend some time to thoughtfully consider what you like and what you don’t.

The 12 Bottle Bar has a core list of bottles. They count bitters among them. I don’t. I can’t. It’s possible that I may have a bitters problem. But that’s a different post. Today, I wanted to share with you my current set of 12 bottles for two reasons. One, I just picked up something I’m quite excited about. And two, when putting them all together, I realized they reveal something not all that surprising.

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