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?