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Judge Me

October 1, 2012

Happy Sukkot! The Jewish holidays just don’t stop. Luckily, from here on out they involve food. But let me tell you, it’s probably a lot more pleasant to eat outside this time of year in Tel Aviv than it is in Albany.

That’s the deal. Some people build a kind of lean-to against their home, and the idea is to eat in the makeshift shelter. It has something to do with the harvest and our ancestors. But if they were in upstate New York, it’s likely this holiday would have happened weeks ago before things got really cool and rainy.

Anyway, I can celebrate the spirit of the holiday by engaging in a busy season all my own. There are some very exciting things going on this week plus an event on Saturday that I’m thrilled to be judging. Here’s the lowdown.

Officially, the first event was yesterday. And it was kind of a non-event. But the newest ShopRite opened up in Slingerlands. This will now be the easiest ShopRite for me to get to. With so much going on in the grocery category locally I’ve gotten incredibly lazy, and have only been to the Albany ShopRite a small handful of times. While I enjoy the store, I can’t quite justify the minor inconvenience of the two blocks of snarled traffic on Central Avenue once I pass Hannaford.

I told you I’ve gotten lazy. And Hannaford has my favorite rotisserie chickens.

Friday is another official grand opening. As far as I’m concerned it’s a lot more exciting than just another grocery store (and I love grocery stores). This my friends is the grand opening of The Albany Distilling Company. We’ve got a whiskey distillery in Albany! Mark your calendars for this Friday at 11 a.m. Bill Dowd has some more commentary and additional details. But if you are curious about this “new make” whiskey, it’s the same thing as white dog. Man, I can’t wait to try it.

But that’s not all, because I also heard a rumor that The Cheese Traveler could be opening up this week. It’s close. And I suspect when Eric opens the doors it will be a soft opening. However if you are pining for thoughtfully selected cheeses from farmstead producers around the world, made from raw milk and cut to order, you are probably doing a little happy dance at the prospect that all your dreams are about to come true.

As soon as I hear word and can get to my phone or laptop, I’ll tweet my face off.

Groceries, booze and cheese are great and all, but what I really love to do is judge food competitions. And recently I was invited to judge the Saratoga Farmers’ Market fifth annual Iron Chef Challenge.

Usually I reserve press releases for Sunday, but having witnessed a similar competition at the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival I’m quite excited about this event. I hope to see you there this Saturday, October 6. In the meantime all the details can be found below.

(Saratoga Springs, NY) – Two of Saratoga’s favorite chefs, Max London of Max London’s and John Ireland of Panza’s, will face off in the Saratoga Farmers’ Market’s fifth annual Iron Chef Challenge on Saturday, October 6, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at High Rock Park. Recognizing the diverse culinary preferences of its customers, the market this year is asking the chefs to develop separate meat-centered and vegan plates, and an optional third plate of their own creation. Max London won the competition previously in both 2011 and 2010.

“Since our market’s first Iron Chef Challenge in 2008, this has become a favorite annual event among our market customers. It’s inspiring for home cooks to see what our area’s talented chefs can create with autumn’s fresh, local ingredients,” notes Jeff Bowers, President of Saratoga Farmers’ Market Association.

The competition will be held on the south lawn of the market, adjacent to the large public parking lot on High Rock Avenue. Spectators are welcome to watch any portion of the event, free of charge. The chefs are allowed to bring butter, flour, oil, salt, pepper, three other ingredients of their choice, and cooking utensils. The cooking equipment will be provided by Adirondack Appliance.

Shortly before 9:30 a.m., each chef will receive a basket of several “mystery ingredients” from the farmers’ market and $30 to buy additional market items of his choice during a brief shopping period. Then, each chef will have one hour of cooking time.

The master of ceremonies for the event will be Dave Pedinotti, chef and owner of Mouzon House. Judges for the competition will be:
— Arielle Landsberg, president of Slow Food Saratoga Region (;
— Ashley Dingeman, food blogger (;
— Daniel Berman, food blogger (

Presentation and judging will begin at approximately 10:45 a.m. Judging will be based on criteria including taste, presentation, and originality. The winner will be announced shortly before 11:30.

“Our market places an emphasis on helping consumers create fresh, healthy meals from farm-fresh ingredients from this region. We hope this competition might inspire some friendly competitions among families or neighbors, ” notes Market Coordinator and event organizer Suzanne Carreker-Voigt.

Background on Saratoga Farmers’ Market
Saratoga Farmers’ Market Association runs three outdoor markets in Saratoga County: Saratoga Farmers’ Market at High Rock Park (Wednesdays from 3-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.); Clifton Park Farmers’ Market at St. George’s Episcopal Church at 912 Route 146 (Thursdays from 2-5 p.m.); and Malta Farmers’ Market on the lawn of Malta Community Center at the corner of Route 9 and Bayberry Drive (Tuesdays from 3-6 p.m.).

All three outdoor markets will be open through the end of October, after which the Saratoga Springs market moves indoors to Division Street Elementary School (220 Division Street) for its Saturday market (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) for November through April.

The association’s “producer-only” standard for all its markets requires all vendors to grow or produce their goods in Saratoga, Schenectady, Rensselaer, or Washington counties and ensures that products are fresh and unique, not purchased for re-sale. In this way, sales provide economic, ecological, and social support to local communities.

More information about the markets is available at

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