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Stop the Presses

September 3, 2010

Your regularly scheduled Friday cocktail post will not be seen today.  Instead, we bring you this breaking news.

The Hollywood Brown Derby, one of the four Times Union four-star reviewed restaurants is completely revamping its menu. I’m sure chef Larry Schepici has better things to do with his time than to read this blog.  But the changes he and the restaurants owners are making will sound very familiar to regular readers of the FLB.

Steve Barnes wrote an overview of the restaurant’s makeover in yesterday’s Times Union.  A discussion of the changes is also underway on his Table Hopping blog.  For the most part people are receptive to the changes.

After all, who wouldn’t applaud “great food and service at reasonable prices”?  Steve reports that the average price for an entrée is now $23, which is about $10 less than on the previous menu.  Plus there is now a greater emphasis on local foods, including a spiffy leaf icon on the menu for dishes where items come from local farms.

And yes, the farms are named.  What farms you ask?

Well, longtime Schepici suppliers Tarbox Farm and Haber Farm are supplying arugula and tomatoes respectively.  They both worked with Chef Larry back when he was at Tosca, and it is great to see them getting prominent position on the new menu.

Sheldon Farms out in Salem, New York is supplying Yukon Gold potatoes.  It’s a family farm that has been growing varietal potatoes successfully for over 150 years.

Maplebrook Farm is a dairy that supplies both whole milk ricotta and mozzarella curds that are then hand pulled into cheese at the restaurant.  All of the milk they use comes from Vermont cows that were never treated with rBGH.

I couldn’t find out much about Belleview Farms out in Genesee, but their chicken is now prominently featured on the Brown Derby menu.

However, it’s not just about farms, it’s also about fish:

Eating fish these days is tricky.  Thankfully the good folks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium have created Seafood Watch and an easy shorthand for deciding which seafood to eat and which seafood to avoid.  Most restaurants are full of seafood to avoid.  The Brown Derby is not.

They now have Wild Alaskan Halibut on the menu, which is listed as a “Best Choice.” Also a best choice is mussels, which are specifically sourced from Duxbury, a purveyor outside of Boston.  “Good Alternatives” on the menu also include Gulf shrimp, Jonah crab and Littleneck clams (which can sometimes even be a best choice).

But wait, there is more.  Despite lower food prices, the menu is still rife with super-high-quality ingredients. Parmesan isn’t just parmesan but it’s Reggiano.  And prosciutto isn’t just prosciutto, it’s prosciutto di Parma.

Most notably they have Berkshire pork on the menu in the form of a pork osso bucco.  Some may know it as Kurobuta pork, but it is listed on the menu as Snake River Farms pork.  All of it is synonymous for delicious meat that come from this noble breed of swine.

The Brown Derby continues to promote its selection of USDA Prime beef.  Their last menu didn’t mention if the short ribs were a prime grade, but the new ones certainly are.  As is the slow roasted rib of beef.

Now about those prices.

The last menu capped off at $42 and $44 for steak entrées.  Now the most expensive things are seafood, the $30 Boston Style Lobster Pie and the $32 Wild Alaskan Halibut, but there are six entrées that are $21 or less.  Among these six are the Slow Braised Prime Beef Short Ribs (that come with Utica Greens), the Brick Roasted Belleview Farms Chicken, and the Hand Rolled Semolina Ravioli with Maplebrook Farm Ricotta.

I have just one thing to say: Bravo!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    September 3, 2010 11:58 am

    Certainly welcomed changes, but Snake River Farms is just a brand of the giant Agri Beef Company: … it’s not a really a farm at all, rather a marketing brand. Tasty I’m sure, but deceiving to people who might assume it’s a locally sourced, ethically raised product.

    There’s a dozen local beef suppliers with grass-fed, pasture raised animals that I’m still waiting for a major local restaurant to seek out. A good pork option would be

    • September 3, 2010 12:49 pm

      Yes and no. It’s not really “just a brand” because they do produce special meat from special breeds of livestock. But I do get your point. Despite its name, it is not a farm, which is why I didn’t include it in the farm section of my write-up. It’s right there next to USDA Prime graded beef. Also delicious, and a step up from what is available in most local restaurants.

      I agree that local grass-fed and pasture raised animals would be great to see on local menus. And when chefs start doing that I’ll promote that here as well. Putting that kind of food on the menu has a unique set of challenges. But perhaps once chef Larry is in a groove with the new menu he’ll consider running some local meat specials.

  2. Mer permalink
    September 3, 2010 5:13 pm

    And, they actually have a vegetarian entree now. I love their cocktail list and it the place has nice ambiance, but I couldn’t eat a darn thing on their old menu. While the veg offering is not anything knock-your-socks-off exciting, at least it’s a start. I for one will be finally able to check them out for dinner and I look forward to sampling their cocktails again.

  3. September 4, 2010 9:55 am

    I wonder if they are sourcing their alcohol from local farms/breweries/wineries…. hm…

    • mirdreams permalink
      September 12, 2010 11:01 pm

      I don’t know if the Derby plans to but I know that Dale Miller serves Harvest Spirit’s vodka with their raw oysters. It’s delicious.

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