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The Chef & The Brewer

April 11, 2019

After twenty years, a Capital Region landmark is changing for the better.

CH Evans at the Albany Pump Station has made some important new hires over the past couple of years. Sam Pagano was brought back to Albany from City Steam Brewery in Hartford, CT to run the brewing program. And more recently Ian O’Leary was plucked from New World Bistro Bar to head the kitchen.

It takes some time to turn a big ship around, and one person cannot do it by themselves. Well, maybe Sam can. That man is a beast. But running a kitchen for a restaurant that size is a herculean task. Especially if you plan to shake up the status quo. Fortunately for Ian, he now has Matt Hughes as his right hand man.

And this past Monday, Ian and Sam came together to show the Yelp community how good this place can be when the culinary engine is firing on all cylinders. They hosted an Official Yelp Event for seventy lucky locals. You can read all about it here, and see pictures from the event, but I wanted to make sure everyone was aware of a few things that may have been overlooked.

For me, the biggest revelation is that Ian is making his own charcuterie.

Maybe there are more chefs doing this locally than I know. But this is huge. The last time I was at the chef’s counter at Lost & Found I talked with Ian Brower while he was making some kind of meaty terrine, and he couldn’t think of any other chefs locally who made 100% of their own charcuterie. However, I do remember Dimitrios at City Beer Hall doing a few fun things with duck, like making duck pastrami. Rachel Mabb has been talking about doing a lot more of this once The Ruck is able to reopen the Troy Pork Store under its banner. Still, this time and labor intensive process will always be a badass move.

Ian presented a platter that included duck prosciutto, duck liver pate, and an oxtail jam. The downside of having to work during these Official Yelp Events is that I don’t get to try everything. Although I did manage to get a slice of the silky duck breast. Duck prosciutto is always one of my favorites. Really, anything with plenty of duck fat is going to be at the top of my list.

Then there’s the clever use of spent grains from the brewery.

Some of that is given to a local farm for cattle feed. And CH Evans gets to build a relationship with a local farm, and play an active role in putting more sustainably raised meat on the menu. But not all of that spent grain is given to bovines, some of it may be in your dessert! There were biscotti made with the stuff, that we were served at the end of the night, and they were fantastic.

As good as everything was, from the grilled goat cheese sandwiches, to the platters of delicate whole trout stuffed with lemon and fresh herbs, to the twice brined buttermilk fried chicken, to the well crusted leg of lamb, potato salad, and grilled vegetables, one of my favorite bites of the whole night were the crab cakes. Ian told me that these were based on the recipe he and Brian Bowden developed at The Ginger Man in an attempt to take all the breading out of the cake, and move it exclusively to the coating.

Not all of these things are on the CH Evans menu… yet. But keep your eyes out on social media for news about what’s going on at the Albany Pump Station. Sam is also in charge of the Facebook and Instagram content.

His brews, by the way, are fantastic and really bring the brewery into the current mode of craft beer. That means hoppy, but not too bitter, New England style IPAs are front and center. But everything from the pale ale, brown, and saison were delicious. Actually, more than anything else, I was surprised by what one of the snobbiest beer snob members of the local Yelp community had to say on the subject, “The DIPA is citrus-orange, smooth, oat mouthfeel. Their Belgian strong ale is a true Tripel. Really impressed. As good as Treehouse or Equilibrium; I care a LOT about my beer!”

So there you have it.

Thanks again to Ian, Sam, Caitlin, and the whole CH Evans team for inviting me and the Yelp Community out to taste what they have been developing. It’s a far far cry from the food I remember, and my hope is that when people learn there’s a new chef and brewer who are doing things the right way, they’ll give the place another shot.

It’s a big gorgeous building right downtown, and if it’s fallen off your radar, you should get in there and see it with fresh eyes.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ewan permalink
    April 11, 2019 11:27 am

    Hey, occasionally I say nice things… :)

  2. albanylandlord permalink
    April 11, 2019 11:56 pm

    Great write-up for those of us that couldn’t attend.

    The Gastropub has been making most or all of their own charcuterie for a while now. Just one of many reasons to check it out.

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