Saratoga Springs

Henry Street Taproom is a great new spot

Henry St is turning into quite the little hot spot in downtown Saratoga and the Henry St Taproom is heating things up even more. Located in the old Virgil’s House location, the Taproom offers a cozy and inviting atmosphere including a wood burning fireplace and comfy leather chairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a cool fall day so landing a spot in front of the fire was perfect.  After checking out the 16 beers they had on tap, I decided on a sampler of 4.  The taproom had a really nice selection that would appeal to lots of different beer drinkers.  It was a good combination of familiar beers along with some more rare varieties that we haven’t heard of before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not that I need to discover even more beer varieties that I love, but it’s always fun to try something new.  Lucky for me I did find a great new beer (actually a couple) and it was the Ayinger Oktoberfest.  The only problem is that I could drink a bunch of them and at $9 a glass, things could get pricy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We checked out the dinner menu which looked great with dishes like duck confit quesadillas and mini mahi-mahi tacos.   They also offer a nice cheese menu with about 12 different varieties to choose from.  It comes with toasted bread, balsamic and olive oil dip, fruit and a peach chutney.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went with the black truffle cheese which was delicious but left us wanting more.  Maybe next time I would get my own vs. sharing since the portions are small.  What’s nice is that each cheese selection is only $5 so it allows you try a couple of different varieties if you want.  All of us thoroughly enjoyed this new bar and the fireplace really added to the ambiance.  The Henry St Taproom will definitely make those cold snowy days much more tolerable.  Just don’t take my spot in front of the fire :)

They are located at 86 Henry St in Saratoga Springs, NY.

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Maestro's in Saratoga didn’t conduct any culinary symphonies

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Maestro’s is one of our favorite places to grab a drink and sit outside while watching tourists and Saratogians stroll up and down Broadway.  They offer a great cheese, cracker and charcuterie spread in the bar area that hits the spot if you need something to nosh on, and their location on Broadway makes for great outdoor seating.  Recently we ordered the lamb lollipops (My previous write up can be read here) as an app before heading out to dinner with friends on Saratoga Lake.

The lamb lollipops were excellent which led us to believe that their dinners would be just as good if not better.  After a summer packed with weekends away and prior obligations, we were finally able to find a free Saturday to dine at Maestro's.  I have to say that I was pretty excited since our first experience was so good.  Not only was the lamb exceptional, the bread, white bean dip and dark chocolate bark we had was also fantastic.

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We were thinking that this was the tip of the ice-berg and that our dining experience would be even better.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.  We arrived to a packed dining room but were offered seating outside amongst many gas patio heaters and fleece blankets on the back of the chairs.  It was actually pretty cozy and if I could squeeze in one more al fresco dining experience, I’m in!

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The house Sauvignon Blanc (The Crossings from New Zealand) is not only delicious, but serves as a good way to stay warm as well.  After enjoying some of the white bean dip and warm bread, we were ready to order.  I thought I was going to go with the Prix Fixe since the options that were online looked great. I had my eye on the duck and white bean sausage as an app along with a great looking salmon dish that came with kale and a potato pancake but both were no longer an option.  I opted for the Salmon burger as an alternative and the pumpkin raviolis as an appetizer.  My husband ordered the five-onion bisque and butternut chicken risotto as his entree.

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My mother went with the Prix Fixe and also went with the bisque along with the hanger steak and blondie for dessert (She didn’t have a choice when it came to choosing her dessert.  Once I saw that it came with salted caramel, pretzels and peanuts, it was a no brainer.)  First of all, the ordering system is cumbersome and I felt like I was in the Soup Nazi episode from Seinfeld.  Each person had to order their soup, salad or app first, then their entrée.  If you order then change your mind, the waiter has to delete your original choices out of his handheld PDA and start from the beginning.  After we ordered, I realized I wanted to add an appetizer and felt as though it was an inconvenience to change things once they were entered into this seemingly regimented system.  It definitely took away from the dining experience and I’m sure it results in lower food bills since guests probably feel as though once they order, they are locked in. “No soup for you” wouldn’t be too much of an understatement with the way things are done here.  After our ordering debacle, the bisque came out relatively fast and was extremely rich and hearty which hit the spot on a cool fall evening.  The flavor was wonderful and not too overpowering and the extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top was really delicious.  Next came the pumpkin raviolis topped with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chevre and brown sage butter.   They weren’t too sweet which was enjoyable and the crunch of the nuts and seeds was a nice contrast amongst the soft pasta.  They were good but nothing special in terms of a pumpkin ravioli.

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It was time for the main course and I was looking forward to finally having a chance at trying some of their entrées.  My salmon burger came on a griddled flatbread with shredded lettuce and a bacon tomato relish. The dish was served with “tater-tot sticks” and a pickle.  I was disappointed with this since the salmon was “fishy” and the burger was difficult to eat.  The tater-tot sticks were awesome but it’s not something I would expect at a nicer restaurant.

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My mother’s steak was tough and not cooked to her liking. The dish came with haricot verts and mashed potatoes that were both good but again, nothing out of the ordinary.  My husband’s butternut chicken risotto pretty much left us feeling the same way.  I had no problem eating the blondie because it’s filed with sugar and I’m a sucker for anything with sugar in it, but I wouldn’t classify it as a gourmet dessert.  I loved the crunchy peanuts and chewy consistency of the blondie but I’ve gotten just as good if not better high-end baked goods at local coffee shops.  I wasn't thrilled with the presentation either.

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All in all I would give them a 6.5 out of 10.  My impression of Maestro's was that it’s more of a fine dining restaurant and their prices certainly reflect that.  I have had much better meals at Brown’s Brewing at less then half the price.  I don’t want to say that the food was bad because it wasn’t; it was just way under par for what we had anticipated.  I will absolutely go back but it will be for a couple of drinks on the patio and lamb lollipops. Think I will head to Capriccio afterwards or maybe just Esperanto’s for a dough-boy.  I’ll be conducting my dinners elsewhere going forward.

Moby Rick’s, Olivia! and some fun food events this Sunday

There are a couple of new businesses that have opened up just recently and both are worth checking out.  The first one is Moby Rick’s located at 173 Lake Ave in Saratoga Springs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moby Rick’s is a seafood market offering top-quality fresh seafood.  Rick Lofstad Jr., owner of Pura Vida Fisheries has been a regular vendor at The Saratoga Farmers Market for over two years and has decided to open up a retail location.  Rick says that they will offer all different kinds of seafood like shrimp, crab or anything else his customer’s request.  Don’t expect the market to look fancy though.  The main focus for this fish man is the quality and freshness of the seafood.  Another business that just opened this past Saturday is Olivia!, located in Clifton Park Center (or as I affectionately refer to it as CCM).  Olivia! is a family run business offering an extensive collection of olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They import their products from both hemispheres in bulk allowing them to provide customers with fresh extra virgin olive oil all year round.  Stop in to sample a variety of their products before deciding on which olive oil will be coming home with you.  I plan on swinging around the corner to pick up a loaf of fresh bread from The Meat House and maybe some craft beer to round out my dinner of champions.

Are you looking for something to do this Sunday?  The 4thannual Harvest Festival is happening between 12-4 at the Washington Park Lakehouse in Albany.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This festival first started in 2009 as a way of bringing a lot of the amazing local vendors in the Capital District together for one event. There will be over 45 local businesses and bands including Bake for You, Mingle, New World Bistro, All Good Bakers, 3 Chicks and a P, Bro’s Tacos, Creo, and many many more.  If you haven’t filled up on all of the incredible food at the Harvest Fest, head up to Saratoga for the Henry St Festival which is also from 12-4 happening on none other then Henry St. :) This is a fundraising event for Ballson Spa’s Gateway House of Peace.  There will be a wine tasting at Scallions, a beer tasting and The Forthlin Road Band and Irish music by The Saratoga Celtic Music Session at The Parting Glass. Several local vendors will be in attendance as well including Eat Good Food, Sunnyside Gardens, Thousand Island Winery, The Chocolate Spoon and Chane’s Deli.  There are lots of great local places to check out this week so enjoy your fresh fish sautéed in some EVOO from Olivia!  You’re going to want to eat light leading up to Sunday’s food festivities!

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Max London’s plays the coolest music ever! Oh and the food is great too.

Max London’s has been on my hit list for a while now and I’m mad at myself for waiting as long as I have.  It was a beautiful Friday evening in downtown Saratoga, and after some happy hour drinks at Saratoga National, it was time to eat.  We only had to wait about 15 minutes for an outdoor table which was great! I’ve been eying their menu and was told that they are known for their Chickpea Polenta Fries and Piggy Back Dates.  Since we were being piggy’s and going to Boca Bistro the following night (where I have to have their dates), we went with the polenta fries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wish I had gone with the dates because they were okay at best.  Drizzled in a black olive aioli, the fries themselves didn’t have much flavor.  The aioli was good but it was sort of like eating a plain fried stick with some salty sauce. Thankfully that was the only disappointment.  For our main dish we got the Opah (also known as moonfish) and Smoked Salmon Tartare along with the wood-fired Eggplant pizza. Both of them were excellent!  The fish came with capers, shallots, sweet corn, crème fraiche and crostini.  It had a wonderful flavor, was nice and light and paired well with the dry rose our waiter had recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pizza was very good too and we both loved the thin crust.  One thing they could have done to take this pizza over the top would be to add crumbled sausage giving it a salty element which would contrast with the subtle sweetness of the pizza.  I’m not saying I didn’t like the pizza, but sausage makes things that much better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s great about Max London’s is that their menu changes daily according to what’s fresh and in season.  There are a lot of items that are standbys too so if you are hooked on their dates (like I have heard a couple of people say), don’t worry, they will always be on the menu.  An unexpected element of our dining experience was the music. I couldn’t believe the great tunes they had playing from artists like The Pharcyde and Arctic Monkey’s.  I felt like I was at a fine dining restaurant with the coolest soundtrack going.  Now that I’ve had dinner there, it’s time for brunch.  The feedback I’ve gotten from friends who have gone say that it’s excellent.  I would definitely start out with the Breakfast Stout Float which is O’Reilly’s Stout and house made vanilla ice-cream.   The main dish would be much harder to choose since the selection is incredible but the French toast with cinnamon butter and local maple syrup or the Pulled Pork Ranchero Pizza which has smoked pulled pork, tomato, cherry peppers, Serrano chilies, cilantro, fontina, house made mozz and baked egg (OMG!!!)  would be two strong contenders.  If you happen to have any room left after “maxing” out, Max London’s is connected to Mrs. London’s who serves some of the best baked goods and desserts around. Max London’s is located at 466 Broadway in Saratoga Springs.  www.maxlondons.com

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Portable eats on the Saratoga Streets. Finally some Food Trucks!

The food truck scene is BIG, just not so much in our area.  Albany offers a better scene then Saratoga for sure, so when I drove past the Eat Good Food truck in the Minogue’s Beverage Center parking lot (16 West Ave, Saratoga), I was excited to see this truck trend heading north.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I quickly did a U-turn seeing as though I could pick up some adult beverages and grab a bite to eat at the same time and this was a very good decision.  The vibe is laid back and there were a few lawn chairs and hand painted ironing board “tables” set up for people to sit at while eating good food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A chalkboard menu sits in the grass displaying what’s being served today, aka what’s fresh, local and in season.  There were a lot of great things to choose from like Buffalo Chicken Tacos, Tomato Scallion Cheddar Quiche and a Roasted Garlic Panzanella salad.  I went with the Flank Steak on a Cheddar Waffle with lettuce, tomato and Cajun Mayo which was my second good decision for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cheddar waffle was great and wasn’t soft or soggy underneath all that steak and the marinade on the flank steak was excellent! It paired so well with the Cajun mayo.  The picture would make it seam as though there may be too much mayo but once you dive in, you discover that it’s the perfect amount.  The lettuce and yellow and red tomatoes were really good too and helped balance everything out nicely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not only is the food good, the service is excellent too! Jean greeted me at the window after mingling with some other customers with a huge simile on her face.  She seems to really enjoy her job and was excited to talk about what was being offered on the menu today.  Jean and John Travis have been in the restaurant business as employees or owners for most of their lives.  As Jean says “it is a happy coincidence that he is the cook and I am the "cleaner-upper."  In between and during their restaurant adventures, John enjoyed a corporate career in the food business and Jean maintained a career as a middle school educator.  They thrive on hard work while having fun together. They were first bitten by the entrepreneurial bug years before they were married when they found themselves thrown into doing a lobster bake dinner for John's dad's high school class reunion in Maine. Years later they operated the Jonesville store as a restaurant/ art gallery/ music bistro for over 6 years and had always intended to supplement the brick and mortar space with a food truck. They found their truck this past winter and are proud to be operating on the cutting edge of an immensely popular trend in gourmet food delivery.  They are especially excited to introduce this trend to a famous resort and college town where people not only need it, they "get it"!! Throughout their endeavors, they have never altered their mantra of EAT GOOD FOOD FOR LIFE! As Jean says “we are ready, willing and able to provide stellar products and service at any event!  They will be parking the truck at the Henry Street festival on 9/23, the car show at the Maple Ave. middle school on 10/6 and the Octobeerfest in Malta on 10/13.  It’s worth stopping by for some GREAT food! Jean and John can be reached at 518.796.4298 or EATGOODFOOD@nycap.rr.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After my lunch, I headed to Ballston Spa for work and stumbled upon another food truck!  Yes, this was 100% a coincidence but I pulled in to see what it was all about.  Fitzy’s Fork In The Road was parked right on Dunning St near Bentley’s Tavern and it happened to be their first day in business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spoke with Scott and Kathy who own this truck and they said that originally, they were supposed to be in Saratoga, but permits held them back so they are now operating in Malta.  Scott had worked at Siro’s for 15 years but decided he wanted to work for himself so he bought this truck, created a wonderful looking menu and he’s off to being another great food entrepreneur in the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel free to contact them at fitzysfork@gmail.com or 518.290.4518.   After checking out the first couple of food trucks in the Saratoga area, I’d say we are off to a great start.  Let’s hope we can keep the ball (and trucks) rolling!

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Great weekend on tap, literally!

It's Travers weekend folks and you know what that means?! It's time to get Sh#*!ty in the Spa City!  This is one of the best weekends of the year and we are kicking it off at 12 noon tomorrow for the beer fest at the track.   Being able to sample tons of different craft brews while hanging out on a sunny afternoon at the track is pretty fabulous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After 4.5 hours of "sampling" it's off to downtown for dinner and more "samples."  I'm sure Toga will be bumping as usual and I can't wait to be right in the middle of it.  We will kick off Saturday with an Ice Cream Sandwich throw down! (Info on the throw down can be found at Saratoga Idiots or FUSSYlittleBlog )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As if drinking beers the day before wasn't enough, we are off to Comfort Kitchen, Wheatfields, Creo and The City Beer Hall to "sample" 4 ice cream sandwiches.   My pants are getting tight just thinking about it but bring it on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I recover from my ice cream headache that will be WELL worth it, it's back the the track for round 2! Can't wait to place my $4 bets that I never win on and have a few Corona Lights (I have to balance out the day somehow:) The vibe is always awesome and there's really no other place to be on Saturday except Travers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After making a B-line for the car right after the big race, it's time to do it all over again and head for the hot spots in Saratoga.  This weekend is always one of the best, so get out there, place some bets, check out the local restaurants and have a blast!

An ice cream throw down brought on by a bunch of idiots and one fussy blogger

In the world of foodies and bloggers, there has been an ice cream sandwich throw down brought on by a bunch of “Idiots” from the team at You Idiot  http://idiotsbeingidiots.blogspot.com/ which is a blog about life in Toga town.  They challenged local restaurants in Saratoga to come up with their best version of an ice cream sandwich.  The contenders are as follows: The Wine Bar - Strawberry Basil Ice Cream w/ Chocolate Balsamic Cookie. 28 Tables - Lucky Charms Ice Cream Sandwich. Comfort Kitchen - House-made vanilla bean ice cream between two house-made pizelles, chocolate ganache, salted caramel peanuts. Wheatfields - Coconut Macaroon and Amaretto Gelato.

When a fellow blogger at FUSSYlittleBLOG  http://fussylittleblog.com/ heard this was going down, he challenged the Idiots by saying that Albany had the best ice cream sandwiches and he really heated things up in this cool competition by adding four restaurants from the Albany area. Here is what the Capital is throwing down with:

The City Beer Hall- Cinnamon raisin cookie from All Good Bakers filled with apple cider donut ice cream from Bowman Orchards

Creo- Blood orange and fennel ice cream with a pistachio cookie dipped in dark chocolate Kahlua

New World Bistro- Valdeon-fig ice cream, pine nut cookie and choc-PX sherry-fig sauce

All Good Bakers- Brandywine semifreddo with brown butter and cinnamon basil cookie.

When I heard this was going down, I made sure to find out the details as quickly as possible so I could get my hands on these incredible concoctions.  I headed up to Saratoga and made my way around to try these frozen treats and let me just say that this throw down is best idea ever! People will vote for their favorite ice cream sandwich and the 2 winners from Saratoga will go against the 2 winners from Albany for the ultimate idiotic fussy little contest.  After sampling the 12866 versions, I am voting for Comfort Kitchen and Wheatfields.  First off, the sandwiches were huge, which in the eyes of a sugar addict like myself, is a critical part. The Comfort Kitchen version was incredible with the addition of the salted caramel peanuts. I also LOVED the homemade ice cream and pizelles - nice touch.

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The Wheatfields version was excellent because it was unexpected.  The combo of the coconut and amaretto was perfect!

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28 Tables put up a good fight but I thought they could have used a better and richer ice cream and they were a little small.

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Honestly, I wouldn’t turn any of these down and actually, I may need to head back up for another round because I am hooked!  If you want to participate,  visit the local restaurants mentioned above.  Then comment or email the team at You Idiot to cast your vote for the Saratoga restaurants or comment/email the FUSSYlittleBLOG to cast your Albany votes.

If I were going to come up with the ultimate ice cream sandwich, I would use a chocolate chip cookie on one side and a peanut butter cookie on the other.  Sandwich some chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in between then roll it in crushed up peanut and pretzel pieces.  Any of these restaurants want to make me one? I challenge you :)

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The Living Room in Saratoga Springs, NY- Review from Guest Blogger Aliza

Fellow food blogger Aliza is a dedicated foodie giving honest food reviews of places in the Saratoga area.  She recently went to The Living Room and here is what she thought.  Thanks for being a guest blogger on "Bite Me!"  To follow Aliza, check out her blog at http://www.savoringsaratoga.blogspot.com/ Hi guys! Before I tell you all about the Living Room, I just wanted to give a quick thanks to Jenn for the guest post. I love when local bloggers work together, especially when it involves food…

The owners of Putnam Den must have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug when they decided to open up a second business, but instead of another music venue they created a fun, fine dining restaurant. The Living Room is tucked away on Caroline St and when you first walk in it looks like any other restaurant…until you see where it got its name. On a raised platform in the corner is an array of tufted sofas and lounge chairs around a coffee table, probably one of the more adorable places to enjoy happy hour in Saratoga.

We were seated further back, at a table that had a decadent sofa on one side and two beautiful chairs (that I wanted to somehow take home with me) on the other. Two tables had to be pushed together for us, and though that seemed to be quite the production I certainly appreciated all of the efforts our waitress made to ensure that our table was steady – nobody likes an unbalanced table.

Once we were finally settled I got a chance to look at the cocktail menu and quickly noticed the theme. The Living Room refers to itself as a 1920’s speakeasy restaurant, with all the drinks being either classics from that era or named for it, like the Daisy Buchanan or the Bees Knees. I personally went with a Sidecar, one of my new favorite drinks. I think a speakeasy is a great idea, but it seemed that the drinks list was where it was most evident - I wish there had been a blurb on the menu or an explanation from the waitress – some additional little tribute to the 20’s.

While we looked over the menu our waitress brought us home made potato chips with three dipping sauces, a nice touch instead of the usual bread and butter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The menu focuses on local, organic, and seasonal ingredients and has a variety of categories that range from “getting started” to “getting comfy”. Since I wasn’t sure how big the dishes actually were, I ended up getting the soup du jour and the Lump Crab Timbale. The soup was a chilled nectarine horseradish soup (pretty adventurous) that had an interesting taste, but was too intense as a soup. I ate as much as I could and then ended up passing it over to some friends, though I think it would have tasted great over fish or on a salad maybe.

After my soup I was definitely looking forward to my crab dish that came with tomatoes, arugula and a sweet pea sauce. The dish had a great combination of flavors, I particularly loved the sweet pea emulsion, but my friend who also ordered it was disappointed. We decided that it was the kind of dish that would have been amazing if we ordered it for lunch while sitting outside on a hot summer day, but was not necessarily what we wanted for dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mentioned earlier that the size of the dishes was a little confusing when looking at the menu. For example, the Crab Timbale was under “getting started” or small plates, yet was a pretty decent sized serving. My friend who also ordered the crab got the salad nicoise as well which was under “getting started” or appetizers. That would normally make sense, ordering a small plate and an appetizer, yet the salad was huge and could have easily been a main dish. Our waitress wasn’t particularly helpful either, I kept trying to ask about the size of the dishes to figure out what I wanted to order and her answers were always vague like “well it wouldn’t be enough food for me”. I almost felt like saying “show me with your hands how much food is on this plate”. Long story short, this friend and I ended up overeating simply because we really weren’t sure how much food we were ordering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My other two friends ended up ordering pizza, one got the Grilled Apple and Chevre pizza that came with onion jam and arugula and the other got the Spinach Shitake Mushroom pizza with grilled red onion and truffle oil. Both were amazing, but I think the mushroom pizza was my favorite; truffle oil just always kicks everything up a notch. The pizza dough itself was pretty unique too; it was an extremely thin crust that was so crispy it tasted fried. The pizzas were perfect for sharing and both went home with a couple leftover pieces for lunch the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall my experience at the Living Room was mixed. I got so excited about the 20’s cocktails (I wanted to try each and every one of them) and the sexy atmosphere, but then was slightly disappointed with the food. Maybe now that I have a slightly better idea (kinda) of portion sizes I’ll be able to order better next time. Maybe I’ll just stick to pizza and happy hour. The Living Room has a lot of potential, just needs a little more fine-tuning. A speakeasy is a great idea but needs more than some fancy couches and prohibition cocktails to make it come to life.

The Living Room is located at 30 Caroline St in Saratoga Springs, NY.  Although their website says it's "Under Construction," you can still click on the links and see the menu.  http://www.thelivingroomsaratoga.com/
Thanks for the great review Aliza!!
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Druthers Beer Rizzocks!!!

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It’s finally here! An awesome brewpub in downtown Saratoga!

I headed over there on their second night and I’m glad I did because we went again on Saturday and they had already run out of a lot of their beers.  Although we were bummed about it, I was happy that Druthers did way more business then they anticipated!  Love when new businesses are kicking ass and taking names right out of the gate.  Before they kicked many a kegs, I was lucky enough to try the Brevity Wit, IPA, Pilsner, Brown Ale and the Hefeweizen.  The Brevity was like candy and it only took me about 3 sips to finish it because it was so good.  I loved the IPA and Hefeweizen as well. The pilsner was good (pretty standard as far as pilsners go) if your looking for something on the lighter side and the Brown ale was decent too.  I was SO disappointed when they said they weren’t doing samplers or flights but I guess they are planning on doing it soon.  For food we ordered the Smoked and Spicy “Cubano” which has smoked pulled pork, spiced ham, melted Gruyere, pickled jalapenos and banana peppers on a grilled ciabatta roll.  It was awesome!!

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Druthers is owned by three guys, one of which is an ex public finance officer, another a burnt out financial analyst and the third a master brewer who’s been brewing professionally for 13 years and is one of only 100 Master Beer Judges (possibly the best job ever outside of a Ben & Jerry’s tester). What I love about these entrepreneurs is that they have built their business based on the philosophy that we all have choices.  They chose to follow their dreams and open a brewery (totally jealous btw) because they wanted to do things their own way.  If given my druthers, I’d be at this place every night!  It had a great vibe, live music, awesome beer and wine (house pinot was great!) and good food.  Although they still have a few kinks to work out, this place is a new Saratoga hot spot for sure!  They are located at 381 Broadway St.

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CNN mentions Saratoga and Lake George as a must see! Great small businesses mentioned too!

Now I love NYC and the surrounding areas just as much as the next person but there are some really incredible places to visit in this beautiful state of ours.

The other great thing about visiting these adorable small towns is that you can uncover some really cool and unique small businesses.  CNN chose both Saratoga and Lake George as 2 out of the 5 places to see outside of the Hamptons (Umm duh! Us locals have known this for years :) ).  What I loved about the article was that they specifically mention local food businesses for each location. Some of the local shout-outs included Putnam Market, Saratoga Peanut Butter Company, The Saratoga City Tavern and The Pink Roof located in Lake George.

Do you think they did our area justice or should they have chosen some other places to mention?  Check out the article here.  http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/31/travel/nyc-getaways-not-hamptons/

Summer Saturday in Saratoga

I feel so lucky to live where I do during the summer months (November through April is another story).  Having access to the Adirondacks and Saratoga is such a wonderful benefit of living here.  It was opening weekend of the track and the forecast was 85 and sunny with a light breeze.  My first thought was let's pack up the cooler and head up.  We got to the track around 3 and found a shady spot to set up our chairs.  After a couple of bets (Corona’s and Pork Slap Ale), we walked around to find all of the new food and drink spots we’ve read about.  The first place we stumbled upon was “Mac Truck” which is a food truck that specializes in macaroni items like fried mac and cheese balls.  Next stop- the new beer garden.

It’s nice to have some options for draft beer but it wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped.  They offer an okay selection of stuff but you can get a lot of those beers at other places around the track so I don’t really see what all of the buzz is about.  Plus, if you bring a cooler, just go to The Beverage Mart in Clifton Park where they have a huge selection of craft brew canned and ready to go! After drooling over the homemade ice cream cookie sandwich they offer at Bettie’s cupcakes, we strolled on over to the always low calorie French fries, gravy and cheese curd stand called Shirley’s which serves up the Montreal-style poutine. This is located where Nathan’s hot dogs used to be in the Carousel area. Looks like the cheese-covered fries from Nathan’s wasn’t cutting it anymore and this place is definitely an upgrade.  We were planning on going downtown afterwards so we chose to skip all of the delicious looking items but made mental notes of where we will eating on our next trip back.  It was about 5:30 so we decided to skip the mass exodus and leave the track a little early to go downtown.  With no plan in mind, we ended up at the bar at Boca Bistro because I can’t get enough of their bacon wrapped dates.  It was still happy hour so in addition to those, we got the grilled farm bread rubbed with tomato, garlic and olive oil and the chef selection of cheese’s both off of the $5 menu.  Although the portions were small, we didn’t mind because it allowed us to try a few different things.  We decided to stroll around on Broadway and ended up at the rug store next to Forno Bistro of all places.  They had live music, and were giving away free drinks along with a huge spread of cheese, crackers and fruits!  Wow we just hit the jackpot!  I’m not in the market for a new throw rug but if you’re trying to get a new customer, this is definitely the way into my heart.  After a few songs (and grapes, both solid and liquid) we went on over to Cantina which had the best vibe going.  Bob Marley was playing in the background and all of the floor to ceiling windows were wide open.  We weren’t sure if we were hungry or not but we ended up with chips and salsa which hit the spot.  All in all, the “Hats off to Saratoga” Saturday was a great day and I look forward to heading back very soon!

Maestro’s Lamb Lollipops

Ahhhhh, do I really need to say anything else because the headline says it all.

Maestro’s is one of my favorite places to dine in Saratoga and they offer wonderful dishes like Duck Confit Bruschetta, Tempura Chicken Meat Balls, Braised Bacon, and a Wild Mushroom Brie Panini and that’s just off of the appetizer menu!!!!  We visit Maestro’s on a regular basis for a drink and enjoy noshing on the appetizer spread they put out in the bar area.  If their free cheese’s, charcuterie, fresh bread, olives, wonderful crackers and house made snack mix aren’t enough to convince you that’s just the beginning, then I don’t know what else would.  It’s quite a spread they put out in the bar and everything is delicious. After a glass of the Vinvita Pinot Grigio (which was good but a little warm), it was time to order the much sought after Grilled Lamb Lollipops.  I have been eyeing these for a while so I figured now’s the time to try them. Our waiter was Richard who we have met on a few other occasions and if I could give out a prize for waiter of the year, he would get it.  He’s recommended these to us before and I trust his opinion since he’s passionate about the food here and has had almost everything on the menu.

Before we even got to the lamb, Richard thought we would enjoy some bread and butter as well as their homemade bean dip and he was right!  The huge pat of butter was sprinkled with Hawaiian sea salt and paired so well with the assortment of fresh bread and the bean dip was incredible.   It had balsamic vinegar, fennel and a combo of some other delectable herbs and spices that were so good.  This could have been a meal in and of itself and we tried to have a little restraint to no avail-oh well it was worth it! It was time for the lamb and the only thing I can say is that I have been doing myself a disservice by not getting it sooner because it was phenomenal!! To read the rest of the review, please visit http://www.saratoga.com/bitten/

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Vino and Wood Fired Pizzas from the Saratoga Winery

After hearing that the Saratoga Winery features live music and wood fired pizzas on Friday nights, I immediately looked at my calendar to find my next free Friday.  Pizza, wine and music are a match made in heaven in my book.  We got to the winery around 6:30 and started out with a tasting.

I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of NY state wines (Please don’t hate me! I love NY but I’m not sure if wine is our strong suit.) I tried the Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon which were all good but I decided on a glass, then a bottle (or 2:) of the chardonnay since it was so warm out and the wine was oh so cold (yes, even though I don’t LOVE NY wines, I am able to drink plenty of it.  It’s my super power).  We found a seat outside where we got to enjoy the live band playing on the Adirondack themed deck.  It was time for some wood fired pizzas so we went up and ordered the Buffalo Chicken Pizza which had olive oil, garlic, mozzarella, hot sauce, blue cheese sauce and chicken.  For our second choice, we opted for good old-fashioned Margarita pizza which had tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil.  We only had to wait about 10 minutes till our personal sized wood fired pizzas were done.  They looked great and we loved the fact that they cooked them in a traveling wood fired oven.  Unfortunately, they were a little disappointing.  To read the rest of my review, please visit   http://www.saratoga.com/bitten/

Rich and Tara Nimmo began making wine in Rich’s uncle’s winery in Western Pennsylvania.  As their hobby grew, they starting taking annual trips to the Finger Lakes where they did a lot of wine tastings, took vineyard tours and explored the grape varieties the region had to offer.  Those trips fueled their passion, and in October of 2009 their dream of owning a winery came true.  Located just 4 miles outside of downtown Saratoga, the winery has a great Adirondack look which serves as a warm and inviting backdrop for tasting wines.

They carefully select the finest grapes from the Finger Lakes regionfor all of their wines supporting New York state grape growers.  The Saratoga Winery is a fun and relaxing place that would definitely be worth checking out. They are located at 462 Route 29 West Saratoga Springs, NY.  Cheers!! To follow me on my culinary adventures, please "like" me on Facebook and Twitter.

Saratoga.com and Boca Bistro

I am excited to say that I am now blogging for Saratoga.com!!

Features will include food reviews from places around the Capital District as well as information for small business owners. This week I review the newest place in Saratoga Springs, Boca Bistro.  It's a Spanish tapas restaurant located on Broadway.  If you check out this link http://www.saratoga.com/bitten/  you can see what I thought of the eggplant, octopus, stuffed dates, and chorizo.  Oh yeah, they have an incredible beer on tap too!

Saratoga Beer Festival 2012

Ahhhh beer!  It’s one of life’s precious gifts and to be surrounded by an endless supply of over 150 different varieties on a sunny 80 degree day is just about as perfect as it gets.

The Saratoga Brewfest held it’s third annual celebration of beer at it’s new location, the Saratoga County fairgrounds in Ballston Spa, NY where about 2500 people came to soak up the sun and sip craft brews.  There were 68 American craft brewers at the event with over 150 beers to choose from including IPA’s, hefeweizen, saisons, stouts, lagers and much much more

 

A few of my favorites were the Koko Brown from Kona Brewing Company which is brewed with coconut and has a nutty, toffee like flavor.  Stone Brewing’s IPA was great and the 2025 Hefeweizen from Mad Jack brewing company, which is right here in the capital district, was outstanding!  It had a cloudy golden color to it with flavors of cloves, banana and a hint of bubble gum!!!  There were definitely some other beers that stood out like Saranac’s Lemon Ginger beer, Shipyards Applehead and Brooklyn Summer Ale (I know that some of these beers could be considered “girly” but I don’t care- they were delicious!!).  What I loved about these beers is that they captured the essence without being too sweet or overpowering.

 

The brewfests are put on by Saratoga Festivals and after speaking with the owner A.J. Bodden, I can see why they are always a huge success.   In the fall of 2008, one of A.J’s co-workers at Peak Organic Brewing Company (yes, A.J, not only has the coolest job working at a brewery but he also runs all of these beer festivals.  I think he may be my hero!) told him that he should start a brewfest in the Capital District.  After doing some research, he held the first beer festival in June of 2009 at the Ellms Family Farm.  A.J. began the process by contacting beer distributors to find out information on how to get licensed and what would be involved in terms of getting the beer to the festival and serving it.  He then contacted a family friend from the Ellms Farm to see if the beer fest could be held on their beautiful property.  Well all of his hard work paid off because the first festival was a huge success and it continues to grow.  Saratoga Festivals also hosts an Oktobeerfest which features fall and German beers and new this year, the Parrot Head festival which is filled with island inspired fun and Jimmy Buffet tribute bands.  This past winter, the first Saratoga Beer Week kicked off in February and consisted of 3 days filled with seminars, beer tastings and food.

 

A.J.s festivals are so successful because he is driven to create quality events.  He said that he doesn’t want people to wait in long lines, there has to be great music, great food and beers featured at the events that you can’t find anywhere else.  After attending almost all of his events, I can say that he has accomplished his mission because they are a blast! A.J. and his team at Saratoga Festivals will kick off the first annual Parrot Head fest this weekend and make sure to mark your calendars for September 29th when their third annual Oktobeerfest will take place.  I know I will definitely be there with a pretzel and dunkelweizen in hand!  Prost!!

Spanakopita from The Omelette King

Amy Kantor (The Omelette Queen) started her catering business in 1997 after losing her job and she definitely made the right choice because her food is delish!

Amy cooks out of local temples in the area and can cater anything from breakfast, lunch, dinner or special events like weddings, showers, birthdays and more!  She also specializes in traditional Kiddush menus for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and other Simchas (Hebrew for festive occasion).  All I know is that I am really happy she chose to make her spanakopita for me because it was wonderful!  She starts out by sauteing onions, spices and mint, which by the way is a great addition and adds a wonderful flavor.  She then adds spinach and cooks everything until well combined.  My favorite part was when I got to assist in assembling the triangles with the phyllo dough. There is definitely a technique involved so I’m glad I had assistance.  I think I will stick to just eating them :)  Amy followed her passion for cooking and not only has this thriving catering business, but also teaches cooking classes as well.  I think my husband plans on signing me up for her next one!  If you are looking for someone to cater your next event, Amy and her team from The Omelette King will definitely take care of you!

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/44614892]

The Fortunate Latte from The Fortunate Cup

I love coffee almost as much as I love sugar (and wine, although wine is the clear cut winner).  There is nothing like the smell of fresh coffee. Add any sort of sugary flavoring along with whole milk and I am on board!

The Fortunate Latte starts out with a generous amount of Ghirardelli caramel syrup.  When I saw that going into the mug, I knew it was going to be great!  Add freshly ground espresso and some steamed whole milk and you figure out quickly why this is their signature drink.  The Fortunate Cup is a great coffee shop on the west side of Saratoga.  People were looking for a great meeting place that has free Wi-Fi, great lattes and delicious food and The Fortunate Cup fills that void.  Doreen opened in 2008 after leaving the finance world and she hasn’t looked back.  The name comes from a thoroughbred horse that runs in Saratoga and it brought the owner a lot of good luck.  Doreen thought it would be the perfect name for the café, which has proven to be a good choice since this place really is a winner!!

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/37126216]

Virgil's House Cinnamon Bun Latte

This was an exciting day because the first episode of "Bite Me" was filmed at Virgil's House in beautiful Saratoga Springs, NY.  After interviewing the owner about her journey as an entrepreneur, I had to know what item on their menu really represents Virgil’s House.  She said the Cinnamon Bun Latte and I said YES PLEASE!!!!

This literally tastes like a liquid cinnamon bun.  The espresso had a little sweetness with the addition of cinnamon and a few other spices.  It's then topped off with foamed milk and sprinkled with Cinnamon. Paired with a real cinnamon bun and you could have quite the decadent experience.  Check back soon to see the first episode of "Bite Me" and to find out how the owners of Virgil's House were bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.