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Bold World Charm
By B.A. Nilsson

New World Home Cooking

1411 Route 212, Saugerties, 845-246-0900. Serving lunch Sat noon-3, Sun 11-2:30, dinner Mon-Sat 5-11, Sun 4-10. AE, D, DC, MC, V.

Cuisine: bold, inventive everything

Entrée price range: $15 (single meanhouse pork chop) to $26 (12-ounce grass-fed steak)

Ambiance: colorful and unafraid

Let me digress for a moment. There’s a fellow a couple of miles away from my home who grows vegetables, and offers a year-round supply of lettuce and herbs. The salad portion of my diet thus has increased of late, and the flavor of those greens is so vibrant, so alive, that I can’t help but see (and taste) how pathetically lousy the supermarket lettuce is.

Local food is what’s best, and that’s the starting point of Ric Orlando’s clean food philosophy. In the six years since we last saluted his restaurant in these pages, he has taken his love of bold flavors and wrapped it around an approach to cooking that’s so seemingly simple that we have to wonder what the hell is sending us into the torture chambers of bad eating.

“Actually,” he says, “you’re probably better off eating at McDonald’s than in your local diner. McDonald’s gets demonized, but at least they have a degree of quality control you don’t see in a lot of local places.”

Orlando is in his eighth year of business at his Saugerties location; he spent five years just outside of Woodstock before that. And his restaurant has stayed true to his promise, something he articulated even before he left the Albany area to start the place. It quickly became as much of a culture as a restaurant, a place you’d want to visit for the company as much as the food.

It would have been difficult to do in Albany thanks to the city’s cultural inferiority complex; the greater Woodstock area, with its visiting population of self-assured Manhattanites, has embraced New World with old world vigor.

The building sits a few miles from Thruway exit 20, and its low-slung, unassuming exterior hints at what’s inside with a large front-yard sculpture of a silver ball suspended from a metal tripod. I take it to be representative of the New World for which the restaurant is named.

“We love to cook,” the menu proclaims, encouraging you to pursue any special dietary requirements. Low-carb, gluten- or dairy-free, vegetarian or vegan fare is unremarkable here, although, during a visit a few years ago, Orlando did spend several minutes explaining to a teenage vegan friend of mine why her diet was unhealthy for her age.

It’s a measure of his complete involvement with food that he has studied it down to the chemical level. And that explains his insistence on the worthiness of component products. But there’s never a lack of flavor or inventiveness in his approach.

Take the stuffed morels ($10), an appetizer we sampled during a recent visit. The mushrooms themselves were harvested in Dutchess County; inside each of the four is a mixture of goat cheese and a pesto made with sunflower seeds. It’s an amazing confluence of flavors, on a plate finished with an oak leaf lettuce salad and a tomato-chipotle vinaigrette. The dish is riotously good, yet sports none of the crap typically used to inject or influence flavor.

Both the core menu and the daily specials reflect this approach. Orlando is known for dishes like jerk chicken ($18), grilled free-range, grass-fed, locally sourced beef ($26) and brined pork chops grilled and served with spicy meanhouse sauce ($15 or $20 for one or two).

“I’m one of those chefs who stays close to the kitchen,” he says. “Having me there helps us stay true to our original mission, which is to serve beautiful peasant food and stay in a certain price range, keeping most of the entrées in the ’teens. As a result, we have people who eat here five nights a week.”

That’s one reason why the specials menu changes frequently; another, of course, is to take advantage of what’s fresh. Even something as fundamental as a puttanesca evolves in Orlando’s hands into something stirring: Served over DeCecco penne with flaked poached salmon ($17, or $8 for a small portion), it had the bold flavors of organic tomatoes laced with garlic, along with the anchovies-olives-capers trio basic to this dish.

A medley of Ric-approved flavors and textures graces los bocaditos ($13 or $7), little bites of chorizo, stuffed grape leaves, smoked mussels, a selection of local cheeses and Sicilian olive crostini to kind of tie it all together. It’s the kind of plate to linger over with a glass of wine or beer and some sympathetic friends. And I had the feeling that I could find and join such friends at any neighboring table.

Slices of roasted and sweetly glazed duck breast ($20) also had a vigorous hit of spicy heat; served over a crisped noodle cake with a side of bok choy-based kimchi, it was positively invigorating.

With a large selection of salads and smaller meals, you can tour many aspects of New World’s cuisine in a single sitting. We freshened our palates by sharing a cabbage-based Vietnamese salad ($9 or $6), which was dressed with sprouts, scallions, peanuts and an array of greens, with a tamarind-peanut dressing.

Orlando clearly has not only maintained but joyfully enlarged upon his original mission. He offers clean food, slow food, food that celebrates life itself. The cheerful dining room, with its gaudy walls and lavish art, is part of the welcome; the service also reflects this personality. Very few restaurants figure out the secret of running a truly efficient floor, and those that do are usually stratospherically priced. Here you see a combination of a love of good food and a love of people combining to offer a matchless dining experience.

Correction

In last week’s Spring/Summer Dining Guide, the entry we published for the restaurant Franklin’s Tower was not properly updated or listed under the correct cuisine category; that should be “Continental,” and here is the entry as it should have appeared:

Franklin’s Tower

414 Broadway, Albany, 431-1920. From pub fare (burgers, wraps, pulled pork) to a full dinner menu featuring such items as prosciutto-wrapped grilled shrimp, marinated pork tenderloin, steaks, seafood and pasta dishes. Full bar, on-premises catering, takeout available. Serving 11:30-9 Mon-Thu, 11:30-10 Fri, 5-10 Sat. AE, D, MC, V. $$$

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

The fine-dining restaurant at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway has been completely rebuilt and is now open for business. Fortunes, a 500-seat venue that sits above the harness track and offers an excellent view from all seats, has been handsomely reappointed and boasts chef Thomas Gisler, formerly of Cooperstown’s Otesaga Hotel. Both à la carte and buffet dining are available; watch this space for a review. . . . Jack’s Oyster House (42 State Street, Albany) has been selected by the Nation’s Restaurant News Editorial Board as a 2005 Nation’s Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame Honoree. Criteria for nomination include excellence in food, quality, service, ambience and leadership in staff training and motivation. Jack’s owner Brad Rosenstein will attend the induction at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago on May 22, and an upcoming issue of Nation’s Restaurant News will feature an in-depth profile of Rosenstein and the restaurant. . . . This Saturday (April 30) will be the grand opening of the Battenkill Kitchen, Inc., a shared-use kitchen that will be available for rentals, classes, product launches, etc. It is located at the Historic Salem Courthouse on 58 E. Broadway in Salem. Saturday’s event will include a ribbon- cutting ceremony, cooking demonstrations and tastings. For more information on joining BKI or renting the facility, call 854-3095. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland (e-mail food@ banilsson.com).


We want your feedback

Have you eaten at any recently reviewed restaurants? Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...

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What you're saying...

I very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's at Ogdens. You review described my dining experience perfectly. This wasn't the case with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree that a restaurant can have an off night so I'll give the second unit on Central Avenue a try.

Mary Kurtz
Castleton

First, yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back. Second, I haven't had a chance to visit Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading the reviews.

Pat Russo
East Greenbush

I would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant - it's not that far away. People traveled from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam. From his background, I'm sure the chef's sauce is excellent and that is the most important aspect of an Italian restaurant. Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm looking forward to trying this restaurant - I look forward to Metroland every Thursday especially for the restaurant review. And by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam location and is opening a new bistro on Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake Bistro. It should be great!

Peggy Van Deloo
Schenectady

So happy to see you finally made out!! Our experiences have always been wonderful, the staff is extremely professional, the food subperb, and the atmosphere very warm and comfortable. Let us not forget to mention "Maria" the pianist on Friday and Saturday nights.

Charlie and Marie
Michaels Restaurant

I have been to Michael's several times and each time I have enjoyed it very much. The food is delicious and the staff is great. Also, Maria Riccio Bryce plays piano there every Friday and Saturday evening, a nice touch to add to the already wonderful atmosphere. It is also easy to find, exit 27 off the thruway to 30 north for about 5 miles.

N. Moore
Albany

Wonderful!

Elaine Snowdon
Albany

We loved it and will definitely go back.

Rosemarie Rafferty

Absolutely excellent. The quality and the flavor far surpasses that of other Indian restaurants in the area. I was a die-hard Shalimar fan and Tandoor Palace won my heart. It blows Ghandi out of the water. FInally a decent place in Albany where you can get a good dinner for less than $10 and not have tacos. The outdoor seating is also festive.

Brady G'sell

Indian is my favorite cuisine available in the area--I loved Tandoor Palace. We all agreed that the tandoori chicken was superior to other local restaraunts, and we also tried the ka-chori based on that intriguing description-delicious.

Kizzi Casale
Albany

Your comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants being as "standardized as McDonald's" shows either that you have eaten at only a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or that you have some prejudices to work out. That the physical appearances are not what you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing on the food. And after all, that is what the main focus of the reviews should be. Not the physical appearances, which is what most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on Central Avenue, may not look the greatest, but the food is excellent there. And the menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian, chicken, and more..

Barry Uznitsky
Guilderland



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