Friday, December 30, 2011

Four Course Fondue

I think the winter is the perfect time to get a group of people together, escape the cold weather and enjoy a different type of dining experience.

That is why every year during the holiday season, I find myself back at The Melting Pot in Albany, at the Crossgates Mall.

At the fondue restaurant, you can indulge in a variety of dishes including cheese fondue, special entrees and chocolate fondue for dessert. 

If you're going with a group of people, the "Big Night Out" menu is a good way to go; the menu provides a set price for a four course meal that includes cheese fondue, salad, entree, and chocolate fondue for dessert. 

For those of you who are thinking "why would I want to go out to dinner just to have to cook my own food?", my answer to you is, "because it's unexplainably delicious!"  The cheese stays hot, melted and fresh in the pot as you eat it, and when you're cooking the food in your entree, whether it be lobster, steak or chicken, you can dictate how and when you want to eat each piece.  Each entree comes paired with a variety of dipping sauces and sides.  The portions are extremely generous and although it may not look like there is a lot of food on your plate before you cook it, believe me, there is always enough.

The Melting Pot can be an expensive experience and may be worth saving for a special occasion (hence why I go once a year.) But you can also come in just to experience the cheese or chocolate fondue, rather than eating an entire meal. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Delightful and Delicious

I never would have thought that my random stop into a small café in Stuyvesant Plaza would quickly turn into the best breakfast experience I have ever had.  Peaches Café is a quaint, delightful, very reasonably priced restaurant that could easily get lost in the huge circle of stores in the plaza, but it is definitely a must-go.  It has been around for 20 years and I can certainly understand why.

When I first walked in and witnessed the variety of foods, desserts and drinks, I did not know where to start.  I decided to splurge and go for the Lobster Eggs Benedict special which came with asparagus and home fries on the side, and was absolutely delicious. 

But Peaches does not stop at breakfast; the menu includes a variety of other dishes including burgers, wraps, sandwiches, soups, and cakes, just to name a few.  They also serve specialty coffees and teas, and have an entire dessert bar right when you walk in.  I topped off my meal with a Snickerdoodle flavored Coffee.

If you're looking for timely service, very reasonable prices, extreme variety and a cozy setting, I highly recommend Peaches Café. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Like Father, Like Son

Brandon Williams, son of former restaurant owner Don Williams, has opened a new version of a restaurant started by his father in the early 1990s going by the same name, Brandon’s Steak & Seafood. 

The restaurant is located in Schenectady at 1702 Chrisler Avenue.  Brandon invested into the property that was recently occupied by a Shalimar restaurant and has turned it into a contemporary steak and seafood restaurant, with the intention of carrying on the tradition of his fathers’ business.  Brandon’s Steak & Seafood is open for lunch and dinner and serves a assortment of dishes including lamb chops, pasta dishes, stuffed sirloin and a great variety of seafood.

Don Williams operated Brandon’s Ritz Terrace for 17 years until 2009 and opened the short-lived first version of Brandon’s Steak and Seafood in the early 1990s. 

Brandon grew up in Schenectady and formerly worked for the Mallozzi Group as a general manager of the company’s Brown Derby restaurant in Albany. 

The restaurant currently has a website under construction, for more information check out this article in The Business Review.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Salad Bar Has Returned to Central Steak

Central Steak has announced that it will be bringing back its salad bar along with a new menu.  I was disappointed when the salad bar left, but it seems White Management has heard my cries.

“We are willing to fall on the salad fork on this one,” said Brian White, vice president of White Management, which owns Central Steak.  “For decades as The Butcher Block we were known, in part, for our salad bar.  After making some changes last year, we consistently asked for feedback from our customers and one theme which we heard loud and clear was the desire to bring back the salad bar.”

Along with Central Steak, White Management also owns Mangia, Creo’, Bountiful Bread, the Log Jam in Lake George and Cold Stone Creamery.  The recently updated menu is featuring nearly double the dinner options and some new entrees.  The returning salad bar comes with every lunch and dinner entree.  

Central Steak also recently updated a new bistro lunch menu and expanded it with more specialty sandwiches and big burgers.  “We want a lunch menu that fits every palate and based on our initial feedback we feel that we are accomplishing this,” said Devin Ziemann, executive chef at Central Steak.  “From the specialty sandwiches like the Italian Porchetta to the Pilgrim as well as the Fall Vegetable Pasta to the Bolognese, we feel that we have something for everyone, there is a lot of variety on this lunch menu.” 

 Central Steak is located on Central Avenue in Albany.  I'm looking forward to having the salad bar back, I will see you there.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Vortex to Brooklyn in Albany

Whenever I have dinner at New World Bistro on Delaware Ave, I feel like I’ve found a vortex to Brooklyn or the East Village right here in Albany—and no matter where you have or haven’t lived in your past, you should know that’s a really good thing.  From the celebrity chef (Ric Orlando has twice proven his prowess on the Food Network’s Chopped series) to the creative menu, the trendy gastro pub welcomes fancy diners and average Joes alike on any given night.

On Friday, my friends and I slid into a booth against the exposed brick of the 1910 building, equally as hungry, but each with very different culinary preferences.  The most adventurous of the group said the Maui Poke of Ahi Tuna (or, raw tuna, for the rest of us) was perfect.  I personally enjoyed the Saigon Street Style Fried Calamari, not minding the twist of peanut and chile-garlic sauces.  (Listen, we can’t rely on marinara sauce forever).  For our main meals, the Hudson Valley salad was a hit, as was the Thai Italian Love – Panang Curry Bolognese.  Think meat sauce and pasta, but with coconut and kaffir lime sauce.  The only miss was the pasta special, but it has already been rotated out and we’ll chalk it up to the diner just not loving the sauce.  Overall, it was all really great, including the dessert.

Whether you’ve skipped New World in the past due to prices or other assumptions, take it from me.  It can be affordable if you’re good at ordering, and it’s extremely welcoming and inviting inside.  If a ‘creative menu’ scares you off, fret not—pizzas and burgers and other ‘normal’ fare are available, too.  But it’s almost a new year; why not try something different?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fancy Flavor, Cozy Setting

This may be hard for some of you long-time area residents to believe, but I just took my first ever visit to the Barnsider restaurant in Albany.  From what I had heard about it, I expected a formal setting with an exclusive type of feel to it. 

But after arriving there, I don’t know whether it was the warm cottage-like atmosphere with its vintage wooden floors or the extremely friendly service, but the Barnsider made me feel like I was enjoying a cozy family meal right at home. 

Don’t get me wrong though; the dishes at the Barnsider are nothing but ordinary.  There is an on-premise butcher shop where the beef is carefully aged for a minimum of 28 days in a special temperature and humidity controlled environment.  You can tell that people come here for the meat 

– each table I surveyed in my immediate area had at least one of the Barnsider’s lean and tender steak dishes.

The fresh fish was delicious.  I had the Baked Scallops that were so flavorful and tender that they just melted in my mouth.  The Barnsider receives fresh fish daily from a special supplier.

If you can’t decide between the steak and fish, no need to worry; there are plenty of combination dishes to try.  All entrees are served with your choice of fresh sides and a salad bar as well.

For more information on the Barnsider, visit their website at:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Uncommon Breakfast

Why would I consider this tasty looking bagel and espresso frappe an uncommon breakfast?  For one I was eating it in the afternoon, but also I was enjoying a custom bagel sandwich at Uncommon Grounds on Western Ave in Albany.  There is nothing like the freshness of a bagel.

The bagels here are all baked from scratch every single day and they offer a variety of toppings and bagel types.  This gives you the chance to build the perfect bagel sandwich  The atmosphere is lively, but comfortable and there is always music playing. 

They're open late and have two locations, one in Albany and one in Saratoga Springs. You can check out their menu here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Silver Anniversary for Paolo Lombardi's Ristorante

I have blogged a lot about Paolo Lombardi's in the past.  Today the Troy Record had a great article to mark its silver anniversary.

Click here to check it out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Some Great Free Starter Apps for Eaters

Feel hesitant about just walking in somewhere and trying out a new restaurant?  Or maybe you're looking for a place your friend recommended and aren't sure where to go, well I have the solution for you eaters out there.   I am seeing more and more people becoming new smart phone users and there are a lot of great apps out there that are free for restaurant goers. 


Yelp is a great starter app for the restaurant goer.  When you're out looking for something to eat and you're either new to the area or you just can't decide where you want to go, Yelp will help you locate a restaurant and you can grab the latest reviews so you'll know what you're walking into.  When you're out on the hunt for some local food you can narrow your search down to the neighborhood you're in or the distance away it is, prices and what is currently open.


OpenTable is an app that is free for smart phone users.  One of its most interesting features is that it allows you to not only search for restaurants, but even lets you book a reservation right from your phone.  This can come in handy when you need to make a last minute reservation and aren't sure what places are full already.  However not all restaurants are OpenTable enabled.


This app caters to you food truck enthusiasts, it includes a real time gourmet food truck map.  The app is free and it allows you to select a city and will show you the location of currently open food trucks as well as soon to be open food trucks.  You can look at menus and directions and even submit your own truck reviews.  This app only has maps available for major cities, but is good to have handy when traveling if your home city doesn't have one.

These are just a few of the free applications out there for food enthusiasts.  If you're curious about  a restaurant's review or are trying to locate where you want to go these are great tools to help you out.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Change is Good

Now don't start snickering at my choice of dessert, it does look a little fancy for Average Joe, but what your looking at is the delicious Mousse Trio from the new J&A Prep Kitchen at Crossgates Mall.  In September it replaced the Houlihan’s location right under my nose and I finally got a chance to check it out over the weekend.

The atmosphere felt nice and casual, I was able to really relax.  For dinner I had the Blue Burger with a side of Jacob's Chowder.  I usually don't stick around for dessert, but because of the built up curiosity I dived in.  

 J&A Prep Kitchen is the latest endeavor for  Latham-based Marello Restaurants & Catering, you can find them in Saratoga Springs at Jacob & Anthony’s American Grille and in Slingerlands and Clifton Park at Bellini’s Italian Eateries.

I was a little upset at first because I did enjoy Houlihan's, but J&A is going to fit right in at this location I think I'm getting used to it already.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What's going down this Saturday?

The annual Oktoberfest block party in front of Wolff's Biergarten returns Oct. 1, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on a blocked-off section of the street.  Head on over to Wolff's on Saturday located at 895 Broadway to be a part of the festivities and of course to eat.

The main attraction to this event is the beer and food, but there will also be a stein holding competition as well as live music.  If you want to get tickets in advance at Wolff's, tickets are $5 in advance and $7 if you wait until the day of the event.  The first 4,000 people will receive a free commemorative stein.

For more details on the event click here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

All This Rain Was Good for Something

It's Apple Season! 

This coming weekend is the Capital Region’s 19th annual Apple and Wine Festival at the Altamont Fair Grounds.  This is a great event to start the fall season and is something I always look forward to.

Delicious apple cider, apple pie, donuts and many other apple treats will be available.  It’s definitely time for some cider, if that’s not your cup of tea then there’s also the opportunity for some wine tasting featuring over a dozen wineries.  The arts and crafts show kicks off on Saturday and there is fun activities for the kiddies.

For more info check out the festival’s website.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In the Aftermath of Irene

My sympathy goes out to all people affected by Hurricane Irene in the Capital Region and beyond, I hope everyone is doing okay getting their lives back in order.  I just got my power back on this morning and I am doing fine.

Waking up to no electricity Monday morning was unpleasant, the milk could not be trusted and I wasn't sure how long my fridge was out for so I didn't end up eating the Lucky Charms, they didn't sound so lucky.  I started looking for breakfast elsewhere and after finding my way through uncharted routes due to road closings I ended up at the Capital City Diner I guess I'm attracted to shiny buildings.

I enjoyed at least 3 cups of coffee and a hefty plate of french toast with sausage.  It seemed pretty crowded, I'm guessing most people were in a similar situation to mine.  The food was great however I used over a dozen syrup packets, I think next time I'll have to see if they can bring me a pitcher of it. 

The Diner is located on 1709 Western Ave, you can't miss it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Five Guys: Hamburgers with a Side of Justice

He's the hero Baltimore deserves, not the one it needs right now.

Everybody knows Five Guys has the best burgers in town, but did you know they also have crime fighters? And stabbings apparently, but I think the french fries make up for that.

Long story short, two disgruntled former employees walk in to a Five Guys in Baltimore and decide to go all Jersey Shore on the manager. Yes I saw the show and is it just me or is Snookie looking good this season? Anyway, one of the two tough guys pulled a knife and went after the manager when suddenly Tandon Doss, a rookie wide receiver on the Baltimore Ravens stepped in and broke up the fight. The two men ran off and the manager only had a minor cut on his chin. I don't know what the Ravens were expecting from Tandon when they drafted him in the fourth round but I doubt they expected this kind of heroism off the field. I'm going to start rooting for this guy. He's not a lock to start but the Ravens need some help at WR so hopefully he can contribute, that is, when he is not fighting the Joker.

For more, read the story at

Friday, August 26, 2011

If you want a good sub, get in line with the college kids.

There are a few courses in the food world that it's always a good idea to follow the pack of college kids. One is pizza. The other is subs.

DiBella's recently opened two locations in the Capital Region that I know of. One is in Latham near Chipotle on Route 7, but the one that caught my eye was the location on Western Avenue next to Uncommon Grounds and near the SUNY Albany campus. The line when I first spotted it was literally out the door!  I figured I'd wait a few weeks until the hype died down to try it, but my return trip was the same long line. It was 3pm on a Saturday, so I guess it was the late late college lunch crowd? I thought it was still summer break?

I was successful at beating the crowd on my third try.  Had a great chicken cheese steak.  Today was my second trip and there was no way I was finishing this turkey and swiss on multigrain. Maybe I'll save the rest for when we lose power this weekend and I'm bored of Hurricane Irene.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Larry Schepici Joins Jack’s Oyster House as Executive Chef

ALBANY, New York – Jack’s Oyster House, an Albany tradition since 1913, is pleased to announce the appointment of Larry Schepici as Executive Chef.  Chef Larry will oversee the entire culinary team for the dining rooms and banquets.

With over 25 years of culinary experience, Larry has showcased his talents throughout his career, garnering numerous awards on the way. In addition to winning Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals, he has been voted “Chef of the Year” by the American Culinary Federation. His travels led him to the Tavern at Sterup Square, located outside Troy, NY, where he won several awards, including earning the prestigious DiRonA Award of excellence for four consecutive years. 

Among the numerous other awards Chef Larry has earned, he also represented and brought home a Bronze Medal for the United States at the Hotelympia 2000 Salon Culinaire "Master Chefs Grand Prix." While executive chef of Sargo's at Saratoga National Golf Club, Larry was awarded a "Perfect Emphatic Four Star Rating" by Bill Dowd of the Times Union and he was the recipient of the Prestigious Four Diamond Award from AAA, making Sargo's one of the only restaurants in the Northeast to hold that status.

In 2006, Larry ventured out on his own, opening three different locations in downtown Troy: the casual Illium Café, the upscale restaurant Tosca and the gourmet market Tosca Etc. Schepici was not only an entrepreneur but extremely active in the Troy community.  

“We have a history of sharing the culinary creations of Upstate New York’s finest chefs with our guests, and we’re proud to add Larry to that storied list,” said third-generation owner Brad Rosenstein.  “He is the best kind of chef – one who honors the history of cuisine while at the same time looking forward with creativity and imagination of what its future can be.”

“I hold the highest standards for my team and my food,” Chef Larry said. “I needed to be at a place where the service was held to those same standards.  Jack’s Oyster House is the first restaurant in the Capital Region that comes to my mind when you talk about best-in-class service.”

Larry Schepici joined the Jack’s Oyster House team shortly after the previous head chef, Luc Pasquier, left to put more focused efforts on his growing culinary consulting business.

“It was a happy match of perfect timing,” Rosenstein said, “We’ve always had our eye on Larry, but never with an opening that coincided with his availability until now.”

Larry officially began his work at Jack’s on August 15.  An open house event will be held in September to officially introduce Larry to guests of Jack’s Oyster House.

* * * * *

Opened in 1913 by Jack Rosenstein and located at 42 State Street in downtown Albany, Jack’s Oyster House has been continuously operated by the same family and is now under the direction of grandson, Brad.  As written by author Professor Dennis Reynolds of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Brad Rosenstein “has redefined restaurant service to such an extent that his operation's reputation has achieved national acclaim.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Where to Find Burgers and Ice Cream In the Same Place

Saturday, a few friends and I headed over to Watervliet, which is home to one of my favorite hangouts, Mac’s Drive-In.  Mac’s is a great place for all your fast food cravings during the summer.  It was just one of those days when sitting outside was a must, perfect weather.  I grabbed a grilled chicken sandwich with their awesome homemade french fries; they go great with anything there.  For dessert I checked out their soft coffee ice cream and added some sprinkles on top, I’m a fan of the rainbow.
I enjoy going to Mac’s during the summer for some fast food when I don’t feel like cooking, which is most of the time.  It’s nice to have burgers, chicken and ice cream in the same place.  They have over a dozen different ice cream flavors; if you’re a fan of coffee ice cream theirs was delicious.

Mac’s Drive-In is located on 648 Third Avenue in Watervliet.  Their open Monday-Saturday 11 am - 9 pm and Sunday from 4 pm - 9 pm.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hudson River Coffee Review

Over the weekend I visited Hudson River Coffee for my first time. I sat down for a few hours and enjoyed a few Red Eyes and a Balboa sub, named after one of my great heroes, Rocky, the Italian Stallion.  I was a little skeptical at first when my friend recommended the place to me, Average Joe usually doesn’t hang out at these trendy places, but I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere when I got there.  I have no arguments, they had great coffee, seating, lighting, and music which included some light jazz and even some Frank Sinatra.
The coffee tastes extremely fresh; the beans are grinded right there, and you can taste the difference.  I only had a few Red Eyes, I will have to go back to try some of their more advanced specialty coffees, I don’t think I will be disappointed.  The Balboa was a typical Italian sub, nothing extraordinary, but I definitely have no complaints.
The Hudson River Coffee house is located on the corner of Hudson Ave and Quail Street in Albany. It opened up just last November and is still going strong with live entertainment from local musicians at night.  The coffee house closes late and opens early everyday of the week. 

Check out Hudson River Coffee’s website for more info, menu and calendar of events.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cold Stone Creamery to Serve Free Ice Cream for 92 Minutes

 Cold Stone Creamery and WFLY 92.3-FM will serve free ice cream to the public for exactly 92 minutes on Wednesday, August 3rd beginning at noon and ending at 1:32 p.m. in the Stuyvesant Plaza.

Cold Stone Creamery is one of five local eateries owned by White Management, along with Creo’, Bountiful Bread, Central Steak and Mangia.  In addition to the free ice cream, fans will also enjoy listening to some tunes from FLY 92.3. 
“We are excited to be involved with this unique event,” said Brian White, Vice President of White Management. “The Cold Stone Creamery offers a different experience compared to your average ice cream parlor, we would like to give newcomers a chance to see the difference.”

Grab some free ice cream to cool down your summer afternoon.  Cold Stone Creamery offers a wide variety of unique ice cream creations along with shakes, cakes and smoothies.  Cold Stone Creamery uses its signature process of preparing customers unique creations on a frozen granite stone.