Three Menus, and a Few Bits

There’s a reason some of us are chefs, and some of you are not.

The following menu was created at the request of Daniel Berman of All Over Albany and FussyLittleBlog  From his email: “I’m working on a story for All Over Albany, and I would love to have your participation. As you may know, the origins of California Cuisine are credited by many to one dinner that chef Jeremiah Tower held at Chez Panisse in October of 1976. It was a celebration of local foods, simply prepared, and paired with regional wine. The full menu is below.”  He then asked, “What would an Upstate New York Regional Dinner menu look like?” Well, this is what I think it would look like.

Flying Pigs Farm pork rillette/pickled farmers market vegetables.

Littlefield mixed greens/radishes/handmade Thousand Island dressing

Foraged chanterelle soup/savory whipped Battenkill cream
Hardwood grilled Adirondack trout fillet/Vermont creamery creme fraiche/shaved apple and horseradish
Oscar’s slab bacon wrapped Wannabea rabbit loin/braised red cabbage
Kilcoyne beef tenderloin slice/Sheldon Farms’ crushed fingerling potato/Hudson valley foie gras aioli
Hand melon sorbet
Black walnut tart, Old Chatham Ewe’s Blue, Rulison honeycomb
Concord grape pie, R&G Yogurt.
While the menus I’ve seen from my colleagues so far are great, a few folks have argued today that the menus do not capture NYS cuisine because they leave out Upstate favorites like Utica greens, mini hot dogs, and mozzarella sticks with Melba sauce. Well, they’re missing the point of the exercise, perhaps because they did not receive the email from Daniel, but the request was that we chefs create a regional menu celebrating local ingredients, not make standard NY tavern fare better with these celebrated local ingredients. I suspect, because none of us did that, that we were supposed to write our menus as if we were at the roots of a new regional cuisine, and we wanted to showcase the fine products grown and produced locally by using them simply, and not hidden in the menus from Anchor Bar to Ralph’s Tavern. Fine places, but that’s not what we do.
Keep in mind also, in a single menu we cannot reasonably include every ingredient that screams Upstate New York. I used locally foraged chanterelles, Adirondack trout, apples, black walnuts, and Concord grapes along with many other locally raised and produced products. With that in mind, if we neglected to use your favorite item, move on, it’s not a Cheesecake Factory menu, it’s a tasting menu.

As someone who is entertained by many things, I read Craigslist ads on occasion, as they can be both humorous and telling of many of the issues facing the restaurant industry.

One ad recently offered a head chef’s position for $15 per hour, the same wage fast food workers will be making shortly.

First draft of the winter menu, starting December 22nd.  Many of you have seen it on Facebook, but for those that haven’t, here it is:

nut medley
warm olives/fresh goat cheese/orange zest/rosemary/olive oil
smoked trout/creme fraiche/horseradish/apple/toast
rare tuna/eggplant caponata/pine nuts/celery leaf
duck meatballs/tangerine caramel/green peppercorns/mascarpone/ginger
greens/grilled artichokes/roasted peppers/olives/red onion/chickpeas/creamy lemon vinaigrette
butternut squash risotto/grilled romaine/apples/spiced pecans/maple vinaigrette
hand-cut pappardelle/ragú of duck confit/chestnuts/dried cherries
lamb chops/roasted heirloom potatoes/rapini/parmesan bread crumbs/lemon marmalade
beef tenderloin/potato mille feuille/leek coulis/bordelaise/spinach
crispy chicken breast/root vegetable bricolage/shallot-herb pan sauce
seared sea bass/shiitake mushrooms/swiss chard/mushroom consommé
beef burger/house made American cheese/slab bacon/onion ring/duck fat fries
sausage and rapini
exotic mushroom, gruyére, mushroom-garlic bechamel
4 cheese
orange tart/dark chocolate genache/hazelnuts/sea salt
vanilla semolina custard/cranberry chutney
raisin bread pudding/spiced rum caramel
The cheese and charcuterie section isn’t done.
I wish I had the space for a more extensive cheese program, but I don’t.
Restaurant Week in Saratoga runs December 4-10.
Here’s the menu for The Wine Bar
Course 1 choices

Spicy pork meatballs, tangerine caramel, green peppercorns, mascarpone, ginger

Moroccan chick pea soup

Smoked salmon and egg salad tartine
Course 2 choices
Seared striped bass, shiitake mushrooms, Swiss chard, mushroom consommé
Crispy chicken thighs, roasted root vegetables, sage scented broth
Coriander pork rib chop,  crushed white sweet potato, onion stew
Course 3 choices
Orange tart, white chocolate ganache
Roquefort, honeycomb, pear, walnut bread
You’ll notice a few items that are similar to some items in the upcoming Winter menu.  The Restaurant Week menu allows us to try some things during service before they are on a regular menu.  Also, look for specials that reflect some items on the new menu as well.
Recovery from hernia surgery takes longer than I thought it might.
Since Volkswagen fibbed about their emissions tests on their diesel cars, they’re going to have to pay up. Since we have two new Volkswagen diesel vehicles, they’re going to have to pay us twice. So far they’ve sent a $500 Visa card, a $500 dealer card, and are giving us 3 years roadside assistance for each car. It’s a start.
There have been a few very interesting chef hires lately.
Allowing employees to purchase products at cost is an excellent idea, and benefits the restaurant beyond having happy employees.  When the service staff has access to the same ingredients that the restaurant they work in, they will be encouraged to become more familiar to more specific nuances of those ingredients beyond what they might be told during pre-meal meetings and employee tastings. They will be able to take them home and experience them on their own terms, making them even more familiar, and able to express that familiarity to customers.  Having kitchen people take those same ingredients simply allows them to work with the same stuff at home, hopefully sparking ideas and creativity. And it’s a damn nice thing to do too.
Alexander Rapini was an 18th century hypnotist. No one came to his shows, and that made him bitter.

One thought on “Three Menus, and a Few Bits

  1. I’m a bit behind on reading this, and I guess you’ve got some contributing to do as well. Bitter, ha! I totally agree about availing employees of products at cost. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recreated restaurant dishes at home. I can tell you how many times I’ve done the lamb: 0
    Please keep putting this blog out there; I suspect your material will be newly inspired, for some reason.


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