Health, History, Horses and a Hot Restuarant Scene

The restaurant scene in Saratoga Springs, NY has been on the upswing for the last 15 or so years. I give the credit to a group of chefs that called themselves the 4 X 4. At the time they represented the best in Saratoga. David Britton from Springwater Bistro, Larry Schepici from Sargos at Saratoga National, Paul Parker from Chez Sophie and Mark Graham from the Wine Bar. Chef Larry is now in Albany, Chef Paul and Chef David are in Glens Falls and I heard Chef Mark, has recently returned home to the Wine Bar. These chefs banded together and executed dinners monthly as a team. They were promoting Farm to Fork long before it was cool to do so. They really put the Saratoga culinary scene on the map.

Many more great restaurants have since entered the scene. Restauranteur David Zecchini has three restaurants in Saratoga Springs, Chianti, Forno Bistro and Boca Bistro. David has taken Farm to Fork to a whole new level when he actually bought a farm that was listed by Select Sotheby’s International Realty. The DZ farm is used to grow some of the ingredients used in the restaurants and also to host events.

Restauranteurs Christel and Colin MacLean started in Saratoga Springs with Hattie’s Chicken Shack, and then added Sperry’s, Circus Cafe, Crown Grill and Saratoga Juice Bar to their list of successful restaurants in Saratoga Springs. They sold Hatties to Chef Jasper Alexander and his wife Beth and Sperry’s to their former partner.

Recently Saratoga Springs has been getting national recognition and some significant players in the restaurant industry are preparing to open restaurants in Saratoga Springs. The first Morton’s Steakhouse north of Westchester County will open in the new hotel at the Racino in Saratoga Springs. Chef Grey Kunz has partnered with the developers of the Adelphi Hotel to open three restaurant concepts in Saratoga Springs as part of the revival of the hotel. The first one, Salt and Char is scheduled to open this spring. Kunz, a James Beard nominee for Best Chef, is known for his culinary talents in both the Manhattan and Hong Kong food scene. He has been heralded by both the New York Times and New York Magazine as one of the best chefs in New York City. Salt and Char is certain to garner the attention of foodies from Manhattan and beyond.

Restauranteurs, Colin and Christel MacLean, have seen a tremendous surge in their Saratoga Juice Bar business as they bring their juice to market in major retailers throughout the country. In order to focus on the juice business, the McCleans have decided to sell the Crown Grill. This incredible “turn key” opportunity to join the vibrant Saratoga restaurant is unparalleled. The dining room, bar and event space are tastefully decorated and the spacious kitchen is fully equipped and ready to go. The location has the highest level of foot traffic of any block in Saratoga Springs. For more information visit Crown Grill or call Joanne DiMarco at 518.210.3649 or John Burke at 518.928.2233.

Renee’s….when a mistake becomes the Next Great Thing

Prosciutto wrapped Pork Tenderloin served over fresh spaetzle with a chablis apple glaze
Prosciutto wrapped Pork Tenderloin served over fresh spaetzle with a chablis apple glaze
I recently watched the Netflix documentary, “Cooked”. In one of the episodes, they talked about the history of bread. The story goes that someone accidentally left a bowl of porridge out overnight. The mixture fermented and rose and they decided to bake it. Bread was born.

In Saratoga Springs, NY, in the 1800’s at Moon’s Lake house a cranky customer ordered the hand cut french fries. When the fries arrived the customer sent them back because they were not cut thin enough. The cook, George Crum, cut a new order of fries, thinner this time. The customer sent them back again. This time, an angry George, cut the potatoes paper thin and dropped them in the oil and left them there until they were hard, then, covered them in salt. He planned for and presumed them to be inedible. Instead the cranky guest loved them and the “Saratoga Chip” was born.

Last Friday night my guy and I went out for dinner at Rene’s on Elm Street in Glens Falls. We love Rene’s, it’s off the beaten path. The restaurant is only open five nights a week, three hours a night and they only have 7 tables. They also don’t have a liquor license so we can bring our own beer and wine.

We have our routine. We pack the cooler bag with a bottle of wine for me and few bottles of beer for Jeff walk over to Sandy’s Clam Bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. Hey, it’s on the way. After we chat with our favorite bartenders, we walk the rest of the way to Rene’s.

The food there is always amazing and the menu changes seasonally, although the favorites like the Weiner Schnitzel and the Ahi Tuna consistently appear. We know we always have to save room to at least share a dessert. The desserts at Renee’s are not to be missed. Friday night we decided to split a dessert. We were torn between the Coconut Creme Brûlée and the Chocolate Pots de Creme. I asked Jeff to choose and he picked the Creme Brûlée. When the dessert arrived, together we cracked at the Brûléed top and dug in. We were talking and enjoying each other’s company, as well as this delicious creamy dessert. Well, a few bites in we realized we weren’t eating Creme Brûlée. The kitchen had accidentally Brûléed the the Pots de Creme!!! We couldn’t believe how delicious it was! We are regulars in the restaurant, so we called our server over to let her know, in case the next people didn’t find it as amazing as we did. She went into the kitchen and let them know. One of the other servers was helping in the kitchen and she came out to apologize. We told her there was no need, it was our new favorite dessert. We all had a good laugh. Check out Rene’s You will be glad you did. It’s one of the best kept secrets in Glens Falls.

Craft Beer in Glens Falls

Photo courtesy of Davidson Brothers
Photo courtesy of Davidson Brothers
If you love craft beers, Glens Falls, NY is the place to go. This walkable downtown seems to have become a hub for beer lovers. There are two that have been around for quite some time and there are a few more that have recently joined the scene.

Davidson Brothers on Glen Street is probably the most well known. In spite of the the controversy surrounding their tipped employee policy the last few months, they are a destination for many tourists and regulars alike. Their signature beers include their IPA, Oatmeal Stout, Scotch Ale and traditional Brown Ale. They also have a rotation of Specialty Brews that appear seasonally. They have a full upscale pub menu and on the weekends they add live music into the mix. Davidson Brothers also has a brewery and tasting room on Route 9 in Queensbury.

Coopers Cave Ale Company also has their signature brews and a rotation of specialty ales. They also make their own sodas and ice cream. The food at Cooper’s Cave is outstanding and it’s a great place to bring families. They are located on Sagamore Street.

Mean Max, located on Glen Street across from Davidson’s, is one of the new kids on the block. Beer is their thing. They don’t serve food, but the good news is you can bring your own food or order food to be delivered there. In addition to the beer brewed on site, you can also enjoy wines from a local, Washington County winery, Amorici Vineyard. Wednesday is Trivia night and they also have a dart league.

If you venture just over the bridge into South Glens Falls, you will find Common Roots. Like Mean Max, they don’t serve food, but they do have an outside area in the warm weather months. Thursdays is Trivia Night for Common Roots and the first Sunday of the month they have a donation based yoga class. Every Monday, they share a new cask beer.

These are the breweries you can walk to from Glens Falls, but there are plenty more within a 20-25 minute drive. You can check out some of the others on the Glens Falls Beer Trail You can also ride the Hoppy Trails Brew Bus for a safe way to enjoy.

If you’re not still feeling the effects of St. Patrick’s Day, The Glens Falls Beer Festival in March 19, 2016 beginning at 4 pm.

Bourbon and Bitters

Bulleit Bourbon with orange bitters.
Bulleit Bourbon with orange bitters.
I know lots of folks who are into the craft beer movement and that is a topic for another day, but I like my whiskey. In the past few years, I have become especially fond of bourbons. I love the subtle nuances of bourbons. And I love unlocking some of those nuances with flavored bitters. There are quite a few brands on the market and the flavors are limitless. There are even books on making your own bitters. I am a fan of Fee Brothers Bitters . I currently have seven different kinds at home. I have lemon, peach, grapefruit, orange, cranberry, mint and of course the traditional aromatics. Bitters impart flavors without the sweetness of most mixers and they don’t dilute the bourbon. It only takes a few drops of bitters to do the trick.

I have a few of my favorite combinations. My top choice is Basil Hayden with lemon bitters. It’s a lighter bourbon and the brightness of the lemon is perfect. I like to pair Bulleit with orange bitters. For a reasonably priced bourbon, I like Buffalo Trace with grapefruit bitters. I’m not a fan of overly sweet drinks so a great substitute for a Mint Julep is bourbon with mint bitters.

There are some bars that carry flavored bitters, not as many as I would like! Liquids and Solids in Lake Placid is one of my favorites. Keegan at the bar makes some of them herself. Morgan and Company in Glens Falls has a small selection. The Bourbon Room in Saratoga Springs also has a few.

Bitters also have medicinal benefits and mixed with club soda or seltzer is great for settling an upset stomach.

I’d love to hear about other bars that carry a selection of bitters or different combinations of bourbons and bitters.

Morgan and Company

One of the best things that has happened to the culinary scene in this area is Morgan and Company, just a few steps outside my door in Glens Falls!

We ventured in on a weeknight and it was packed. I’ve been there before, but it was my companion’s first time. Our server, Joleen, was an incredible resource to navigate the intriguing menu.

We couldn’t decide on appetizers so we chose quite a few to sample. The Hummus Platter is a must have. It should be called the Mediterranean Platter. There is a little bit of everything. Carrot Puree, Hummus, Spicy Whipped Feta, Fried Chick Peas and Pureed Lentils and my favorites, the Babbaganoush and the Red Pepper and Sun Dried Tomato spread, served with perfectly seasoned pita as vessels for these delicious spreads.

The Lamb Cigars, amazing, seasoned with curry with a spicy Harrissa dipping sauce that was “to die for”! We also had to have the Deviled Eggs, made with Truffle oil and a sprinkle of Truffle salt. The flavor is incredible and you can not go to Morgan and Co and not order them. The Chef, Rebecca Butters, (a Food Network Chopped Champion) sent us out a complimentary order of the Fried Calamari. It was crispy and not at all greasy with the calamari so tender. We also had the Candied Garlic Spare Ribs. I am not a rib person and I could not stop eating them. The ribs were both tender and crispy and we just pulled the meat off the bone. There was just enough kick to keep it interesting but still allowed the meat to be the star of the dish.

Then it was on the the entrees. I chose the Picnic Fried Chicken. I think there was at least half a chicken, so crunchy it had to have been double breaded. I think I could have easily eaten just the outside, but then I would have missed the moist fleshy inside that was packed with flavor, even the white meat! If that wasn’t enough it was served with old fashioned Potato Salad and and a Strawberry Fennel Salad dressed with a Poppy Seed dressing. There was easily enough there for two or three meals. My companion chose the Inca Bowl. A signature concoction with Adobo-spiced Quinoa, Possole ( a Mexican dish that contains Hominy), Kale, Corn and Roasted Vegetables. You can top it with your choice of Chicken, Steak, Shrimp, Scallops or Blackened Swordfish. My companion chose the Steak. It was spicy but the kind of spice that brought out the flavors of the components instead of over powering them.

We enjoyed out appetizers and entrees so much, we had little room for dessert. We decided to split the Chocolate Pot de Creme. It was just the right ending. A little sweet, a little chocolate. I have to admit, with just a short walk home, my dessert included a glass of my favorite bourbon, Basil Hayden on the rocks with a few shakes of orange bitters. They have several different bitters at the bar. If you haven’t tried bitters in your bourbon, you are really missing out!

Watching the Adirondack Balloon Festival from my rooftop
Watching the Adirondack Balloon Festival from my rooftop
September is Balloon Festival in Glens Falls. It is a not to be missed weekend. Make sure to include Morgan and Company in your Ballon Festival plans. I’ll be watching from my roof top.

My new favorite eggs

The Glens Falls food co-op has moved into the Arcade Building on South Street in Glens Falls. Conveniently this is only a block and half walk from my loft. I couldn’t be happier! I visited for the first time last week. There were so many amazing things there. I felt like a kid in a candy store! I bought this terrific lip balm that finally cured my chapped lips and “Mary’s Hand Gathered Eggs”.Label of Mary's Hand Gathered Eggs I was so amused by the label I had to try them.

The eggs were beautiful to look at but truly amazing to eat! I like my eggs poached so there is nowhere for a bad egg to hide. The yolks on these eggs were huge and so dark, they were almost orange. I ate the last of them this morning for breakfast and I knew I had to have more. Mary's Hand Gathered Eggs

This afternoon I took a break from a crazy day of real estate and walked over to the co-op. This time I got two dozen of Mary’s eggs and a pound of butter made from the milk of grass fed cows and a wedge of corn bread that I plan to have with Mary’s eggs for breakfast tomorrow!

Living The Good Life

Living the “Good Life” means something different to everyone. For me it means living in an urban setting, walkable to great restaurants, shops and entertainment, but just a few minutes in the car or on a bike and I am in the Adirondack Mountains on the water or in the woods. I have the best of both worlds. IMG_0729I can wake up in the morning, go for a walk either downtown or along the Hudson River, work from my home office or go out on appointments, watch the sunset over the Adirondacks with a cigar and good Cabernet from the balcony of my loft, then walk to meet friends at any one of the amazing restaurants downtown. Depending on the night, I can walk to hear some great music or head up to my roof top to watch fireworks from a host of different locations. That’s my idea of the “Good Life” in upstate New York. What’s yours?