I’m loving the cocktail recipes shared by our collaborating Kitchen Raid restaurants this month and we had fun running around to try them all. If you haven’t tried making them at home, check out the limited edition recipes here. So, whether you’re meeting friends for a holiday cocktail or enjoying a dinner out during the holidays, now’s a good time to try someplace new.
It’s probably time to finalize any last minute holiday shopping, unless, like me, you manage to leave it all to the last minute. Perhaps you’d like the Yesfolk kombucha vinegars, Rockerbox Mulling Spices, Irie Vybez jerk sauce and Primo Botanica sweatshirts among the goodies on the hefty holiday gift guide I compiled for the Times Union. Not included on this year’s list, but deserving a mention are the lovely Albany-made Fowler chopping boards, Hudson Candles, and Fruition caramel chocolates. All available at Fort Orange General Store in downtown Albany.
I gave myself a couple of early gifts too – more books! First, Tastemakers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America by Mayukh Sen and MadMadeThese: Holiday Cocktails, a collection of unique recipes self-published by Madeline Dillon, the star mixologist at The Dutchess Farm in Rhinebeck, NY.
Feeling festive, I joined CBS6 Albany anchor, Heather Kovar, to talk cocktails. Since the 1990s are back in full force with the return of “Sex and the City” as “And Just Like That…” we talked about the Cosmo, sparkling Cosmo, Marmalade Cosmo and the drink of 2021, the Espresso Martini. Visit their Facebook page for the recipes or The Food Life where all the recipes live!
Inspired by the Cadbury chocolate oranges I was given as a child at Christmas, I came up with a Chocolate Orange Espresso Martini with added Cointreau and creme de cacao. Paired with espresso and Kahlua it’s a perfect holiday drink.
If you’re someone who likes to listen to podcasts while you cook, check out The Splendid Table Holiday Warm Up (Episode 672) where host Francis Lam is visited by Chef David Nayfield who shares his recipe for drankiki, chicken-stuffed potato pancakes, a Hanukkah staple for his Jewish-Belarusain family. There’s also a fun segment on champagne with expert Peter Liem who suggests pairing champagne with fried chicken take out, not just special occasions.
And for something soothing when your bellies are full, watch Robin Robin on Netflix. In the latest Aardman animation, an optimistic bird raised by mice wishes on a Christmas star.
I caught up with Heather Kovar of CBS6Albany to talk holiday cocktails, quick batch Negronis and to help her make a cocktail with the limited ingredients she had on hand. Watch here!
I wrote about the return of the coffee lounge and one that expands its terroir-driven interests beyond fair-trade coffee to wine. Some coffee shops, like Superior Merchandise in Troy, have a small, but beautifully curated natural wine list – and a borrowed wine director pouring every weekend until Christmas. Another, revamped The Ground Up Cafe & Lounge in a student block of Albany, focuses on locally-roasted coffee and a raffish range of grape-wine liquors for “spirit” cocktails on a wine license. Learn more about both cafes and grape-wine history here.
If you prefer to send gifts online, how about cocktail-scented candles or this DIY mochi ice-cream kit? I’m gifting The Sweet Side of Sourdough written during the pandemic by Gage & Tollner pastry chef Caroline Schiff. Caroline worked with us on Kitchen Raid, so if you’ve signed up you’ll learn how to make a home-cook single layer version of the famous Gage & Tollner 11-layer coconut and lime cake. Join in here.
Food As Art Billie Belo, former baker for Lil Deb’s Oasis in Hudson, is among the artsy young bakers making waves online and featured in the New York Times magazine. The baker behind ‘Cakes For No Occasion’ studied painting at New York’s Grand Central Atelier and sees her cakes more as sculptures, rejecting the “tight, Victorian look of traditional cakes” where excesses are smoothed out. Instead her cakes are free, juicy, even messy, with frosting and filling oozing or dripping out.
Underground pizzeria, Apartment Pizza, is offering a Thanksgiving pizza topped with turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry and lots of cheese to hold this fat boy all together. Orders taken via text or Instagram Direct Message. Visit their website or IG: @apartmentpizzaalb
Yesfolk Kombucha, made in Troy, continues to score rave reviews in the national press and featured in the November issue of Food and Wine magazine.
Jones’ Turkey and Gravy soda is back after a decade away. I’m not sure any of us need it, but you can’t argue with the release date in time for Thanksgiving. Some of their other original limited release flavors have included bacon, green bean casserole and Christmas ham.
Are you a dessert person? If so, you’ll love these chocolate orange pots de creme with olive oil and sea salt that I recently featured with Piro. olive oil. You’ll find my recipe at olio-piro.com. Why not make the recipe and gift a bottle of Piro. Use code SUSIEDP for 20% off Piro. online.
The Fox and Burn is an entertaining newcomer to the River Street Food Hall in the Hedley Building deserving praise for its interesting cocktails and slew of social events, (even if I can’t help but read the word “Burn” as “Bum” due to the font they chose.) Regrettably, a lackluster meal at its older sibling, Risotto, is, in a nutshell, what gives upstate dining an unfair and outdated bad name. I make the point, it’s no longer okay, with many local chefs serving up creativity and bang-for-the-buck on upstate plates. If you’ve been, you know what I mean.
The Yard Albany, an ax-throwing-cocktail venue, has re-styled its greenhouses in Alice In Wonderland or Barbie’s party house themes and matching menus.
The Maker Lounge in Hudson, best known for its moody, jewel-toned bar and exemplary cocktails, has added a retro Choco-Taco to its short bar menu and I’m here for it. Meet the Man Who Invented the Choco Taco.
Lil Deb’s Oasis, off Warren St., Hudson, is back and better than ever with their revamped, eternally artsy space, vegetal cocktails, and a killer menu featuring cheesy potato llapingacho, crunchy blooming onions with bonito flakes, whole fried porgy with mizuna and herbs, and scallop crudo with carrot-ginger agua and zodiac pear. One of my fave area restaurants.
I love an unhurried drive to the Berkshires in all seasons whether for art at Mass MoCA or The Clark and a pitstop in Lenox, Stockbridge or the Shaker Village in Pittsfield. Recently I headed out to North Adams to check out The Break Room at Greylock Works where chef Brian Alberg shifted plans from a restaurant to an all-day bakery-café in an architecturally redesigned former industrial mill. The enormous event and multi-occupancy space is pretty remarkable – reminiscent of the shape of things at Mass MoCA a mere 4-minutes away. While they currently have prix fixe Saturday night dinners, there are plans to host dinner and movie nights as the seasons change. For now, it’s an excellent stop for brunch or lunch should you find yourself out that way. Don’t leave without a box of pastry treats to tide you through the week.