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Moving On

July 31, 2013
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Wow. What a ride. I rode into town six years ago as a displaced ad guy with a kid. I knew nobody. When I looked around at the local food scene I sunk into a deep depression. Our fanciest restaurant was proudly proclaiming their farmed Atlantic salmon on the menu, and there was no place to get a grassfed burger. God help you if you wanted an espresso.

Now I’ve got a house, two kids, and thousands of people who read my thoughts about food every month. Thousands? That’s nuts. But more importantly, the food in the Capital Region has decidedly improved tremendously. Maybe I was able to help give some of these places a push. Maybe I just happened to hop on the wave at the right time.

I don’t know. But I do know there is still work to be done. And I’m shocked to find that I’m reluctant to leave. However, it was family that brought me here. It’s family that’s taking me away. And it’s family that’s going to bring me back eleven months from now.

Nobody can say what the next year will bring to food in the Capital Region, but here are a few of my thoughts.

1) Whole Foods will be a game changer
You know how tourists drive past Albany on their way to Saratoga Springs, Lake George, and the Adirondacks? Well, this new outpost of urban civilization is going to pull them off the Northway. The downside is that all they’ll see of Albany is Wolf Road and Colonie Center, but there’s a fighting chance some of them might try Ted’s Fish Fry, and help get one of our regional specialties on the culinary map. Okay. Maybe that’s a stretch. But it’s going to give Honest Weight Food Co-op a run for its money, and will also have a further impact on Price Chopper, Hannaford and ShopRite.

2) The Grocery in Troy will succeed where the Pioneer Market failed
Fancy food will come to Troy. This place will not try to be everything to everyone. It will be small and it will be delicious. It probably will be reasonably expensive. But I expect the food there will be well worth it. With the success of the Lucas Confectionery Vic and Heather have set the bar high. I have every confidence they will find a way to clear it.

3) Albany Distilling Co will release their aged rum in time for fireplace season
Their white rum was delicious in summertime cocktails. I just recently finished my bottle. And now they’ve got some sitting in barrels at the distillery patiently getting softer, rounder, and extracting all that caramelization from the charred wood barrels. Winter’s cold can sting. But this should make it a bit easier to take.

4) The Cheese Traveler will get its hooks into other local establishments
There is no excuse anymore for any restaurant worth a damn to put out a bad cheese plate. And those charcuterie platters made from even high quality deli meats no longer pass muster. Consumers have gotten a taste of the good stuff from Eric and his staff. If you try to dress up a $20 plate with commercial crap and drizzle it with some balsamic reduction, your customers are going to call BS. The times they are a changin’.

5) The Troy Farmers Market will expand to Albany
Think about it. In New York City, The Greenmarket operates a bajillion farmers markets across all five boroughs. That’s to say, a model exists for this kind of thing. An organization has the relationships and the know-how for pulling off a market. Instead of Albany reinventing the wheel, they would be wise to leverage the expertise of the Troy Market. Not to mention it’s getting a little bit too big for its britches these days. Expansion could give them something else to focus on instead of trying to find a permanent home in Troy.

6) The Albany Aquarium will not get built
Seriously, it’s a terrible idea. Even if it comes with a monorail. And even if that monorail has a sushi bar on board.

7) Spot Coffee will open up an Albany location
This would be great news for the burgeoning coffee scene in the Capital Region. One opened in Saratoga Springs, but I’d love to see one a bit closer to home when I get back. Hopefully someone can make that happen for me.

8) Mexican Radio is going to bomb in Schenectady
Holy shit, have you seen how expensive that place is? And they don’t even use happy meat! I don’t get it. And while Schenectady is getting better heeled, I just can’t see it supporting a $20 burrito. Maybe I’m wrong. But La Mexicana is just down the street, and it’s fantastic.

9) ShopRite will close its first store in the Capital Region
That one in Slingerlands is a dog. Seriously, it’s always empty. If you hate shopping because the store is always crowded, do yourself a favor and check this location out. It’s a great store. But it’s huge, and there’s no way that location can be making ends meet. At some point the corporate chiefs will get smart and decide to cut their losses to stay profitable in this competitive market.

10) Fussy Little Tours will continue in my absence
There’s still eating to be done. Just because I’m not physically in the area doesn’t mean that you get a break. Jessica R. has stepped up to lead the summer tour, but I still need a volunteer to lead the Tour de Donut in the fall. This winter would be another savory tour, and part of me thinks it could be fun to do a joint tour of Albany and Jersey. But I’d still need someone on the ground up here. And this spring of course should be the Tour de FroYo. If you think you’ve got what it takes to lead a bunch of eaters through the wilderness, please let me know.

Now I’ve got a truck to drive.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Elyse permalink
    July 31, 2013 10:23 am

    I enjoyed this list. Happy travels, Daniel!

  2. -R. permalink
    July 31, 2013 10:29 am

    Safe journey Daniel. Have fun in your new adventure.

  3. Doug permalink
    July 31, 2013 11:24 am

    Godspeed, Profussor…

  4. Jessica R permalink
    July 31, 2013 11:35 am

    Good list! Safe travels! I’m looking forward to hosting this tour in your absence!

    • Jessica R permalink
      July 31, 2013 2:26 pm

      Oh, I do have a comment on #9. I think the Fresh Market will close before a Shop Rite location does. That store has to support itself, while Shop Rite can rely on the infrastructure and transport of it’s other stores. I haven’t been to FM much, but it seemed pretty dead when I did.

      • July 31, 2013 6:59 pm

        We were at a Fresh Market on the Cape a few weeks ago, and it was quite a good store… I know it’s a chain, but I’m looking forward to going back. It would be sad if the Capital Region can’t support its only Fresh Market.

      • July 31, 2013 7:10 pm

        I do like Fresh Market (partially because of how close I live to the one in Latham and how civilized and nice it is inside), but it is disappointing that they don’t use more natural ingredients; whether it’s their own baked goods or products on the shelves, there are a lot of artificial ingredients present.

        On the surface, Fresh Market and Whole Foods might appear similar to customers–high-priced specialty stores–but Whole Foods’ adherence to using natural ingredients makes their higher prices (which aren’t even that high compared to our supermarkets out here) seem more justifiable than Fresh Market’s.

      • DEN permalink
        July 31, 2013 11:00 pm

        Not sure I agree that Fresh Market will close first, if only because of its location; just minutes from 87 and 787 and Troy via alternate 7. It is just easy to access from a number of communities. Even if you know the handy back routes to avoid Central and Wolf traffic to get to Whole Foods at Colonie Center, Fresh Market may still have the better location.

  5. July 31, 2013 2:01 pm

    Ooh, froyo. Great idea!

  6. July 31, 2013 8:34 pm

    Incidentally, Daniel, if you’re thinking of expanding the Tour de Donut beyond the region, Western Massachusetts would be a great inclusion. I can think of two places off the top of my head that would be great: The Donut Man in Hadley, and The Donut Dip in Holyoke. Those were hangover destinations for everyone when I lived in Northampton, and I still think Donut Dip has the best donuts I’ve ever had.

    • DEN permalink
      July 31, 2013 10:44 pm

      Good tour idea. could also hit Atkins Farms in Amherst.

      • August 1, 2013 7:13 am

        That’s a wonderful place, DEN… a great store as well as the unbelievably great cider donuts!

  7. July 31, 2013 8:43 pm

    Donut Dip has several locations, by the way (East Longmeadow, Springfield, Holyoke)… but they’re still miles better than Dunkin. My cousins swear that Round Rock Donuts outside of Austin, Texas has the best donuts in the country, but I doubt a Tour de Donut would be venturing that far. ;)

  8. July 31, 2013 8:56 pm

    Correction to my previous comment: Donut Dip has two locations, apparently. They may call their main location “West Springfield,” but it’s actually just south of Holyoke. Not that anyone here cares, I suppose, but Western Massachusetts is really just around the corner.

  9. DEN permalink
    July 31, 2013 11:48 pm

    I think the real value of the blog has been highlighting things that have escaped the attention of the traditional media outlets. Have received many leads on places that I would not have tried otherwise.

  10. Stella permalink
    August 1, 2013 9:45 am

    Princeton awaits your arrival (and maybe a few foodie reviews would boost up its quality too)!! See you soon!

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