chef Brian Molino and Flying Pigs Farm owner Jen Small
PHOTO: B.A. Nilsson
evenings of fine-dining at Marché highlight seasonal ingredients
from area farms
B. A. Nilsson
first example of finger food really was no bigger than your
finger. A crisp pecan topped with a mini-marshmallow-sized
puff of blue-cheese mousse. Perched vertically above, like
a tiny sail, was a triangular gala apple wedge. The little
bite did its job quickly, sparking the palate with a classic
combination of tartness, sweetness and crunch.
Another classic combo: pork sausage and sage. How about mingling
them by wrapping a dollop of said sausage in a sage leaf,
then lightly breading and deep frying it?
Then there’s the challenge of pairing apples and pork. For
another finger-food item, spread a crouton with apple butter
and top with a pork-based pâté.
Thus chefs Brian Molino and Erin Boyle met the challenge of
taking two abundant local ingredients and devising a fancy
meal. And this was only a part of the first course, a succession
of tray-passed hors d’oeuvres.
The event was the third Farmer/Wine Evening at Marché, the
fine-dining restaurant at 74 State Street (the hotel’s address
is its name) in Albany. Utilizing local ingredients has become
a growing priority among better chefs everywhere, and the
Capital Region, which typically lags behind the rest of the
country by a decade or two, is catching up.
Part of the impetus for this change comes from Boyle, who
spent time in San Francisco kitchens. “When I moved back east,
it’s been hard to find any produce with flavor,” she says.
“California has been doing this for 20 years, but it’s harder
here because we have a much shorter growing season.”
Along with incorporating local ingredients into the regular
Marché menu, she and executive chef Molino decided to feature
those ingredients in these special dinners as well. “As soon
as we did the first one,” says Molino, “the farmers have been
coming to us. They all know one another, so it’s easy to get
For this seasonal dinner, the first choice was an easy one:
Indian Ladder Farms, the venerable Altamont orchard now in
its fourth generation of family ownership. Indian Ladder is
a popular pick-your-own destination, and the onsite store
now supplements its own fruit with produce and products from
other nearby suppliers, making it more of a one-stop food
As Indian Ladder president Peter Ten Eyck observes, in addition
to buying a fresh, healthy product, each dollar spent on local
apples goes to employ local people who themselves can then
afford to give to the community.
Meat for the Marché meal came from heritage pigs raised by
Flying Pig Farms in Shushan, where Jennifer Small and Michael
Yezzi also raise chickens for meat and eggs. It costs more,
of course, to raise animals in a safe, humane manner, and
so the meat costs that much more than the factory-farmed supermarket
meat we pretend to enjoy.
the farmers themselves, we try to use all parts of the animal,”
says Molino. “It inspires you to be creative, and it opens
a new experience for the diners.” Hence the fourth course,
testa, from the Italian word for “head.” In this case,
the meat in the head of a pig, traditional ingredients of
head cheese, but here cured into a hefty crimson sausage well
ringed with fat. Sliced paper-thin, a few slices were presented
alongside the tiny cubes of potato and honeycrisp apple salad.
Apples co-starred with snapper in a first course in which
the fish, firm but raw, was married with thin fruit slices;
as an intermezzo, a serving of apple sorbet drew added tartness
from an accompanying sprig of baby pinot noir grapes. Having
sampled apples raw, marinated, pressed into cider for consommé
and frozen into that sorbet, what remained? Baking them, of
course, and thus it was that they appeared in the form of
individual sweet cakes, served for dessert with a Calvados
Pork snuck in alongside apples again in a salad whose greens
also came from Flying Pigs Farm. This time, crunchy lardons
of bacon nestled with the frisée, with a gala apples adding
all the tartness the course required.
all apples are the same,” Molino says, “so we wanted to show
off the flavors and textures of the different varieties. For
example, we used apple cider and chicken stock for the consommé,
but we also cooked it with the apple skins. Our chicken stock
is standard stuff, which is by no means clear.” The traditional
consomme clarifying technique calls for a “raft” of egg whites
that serves to draw out the brew’s impurities. “The apple
skins did that for us, and we were surprised by the result.”
Pork made an appearance in the soup, too, in the form of Italian-style
sausage wrapped in house-made pasta, submerged like wontons.
And pork had its own entrée showcase: a traditional roasted
leg cooked pink and served with chestnuts and porcini mushrooms.
It was a nice alternative to the more familiar chops, and
certainly far more flavorful than the bland commercial product.
more I read about how they’re growing produce and animals,”
says Boyle, “the more I realize there’s no excuse for not
trying this. As I explore our strange relationship with food,
and the eating disorders, obesity, diseases, I wonder why
us? Why now?” She is part of the international Slow Food movement,
which tries to redress these problems, “and I follow their
philosophy of bringing people closer to their food, literally,
want to help the local farmers who are producing wonderful
ingredients, so the dinners arose as a way to showcase these
products and get the word out to the public.” The next such
event takes place Oct. 26 and features items from Schagticoke’s
Denison Farm and Elihu in Valley Falls.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
France’s Rhone Valley with a trip to Provence—in
Stuyvesant Plaza, that is. A late-harvest wine
dinner will be held at 7 PM Wednesday (Sept 26),
featuring the wines of Perrin & Fils paired
with a fall menu by chef de cuisine Michael Cunningham.
Enjoy pan-seared Hawaiian wahoo with tiger shrimp
dumplings alongside a Perrin Réserve Côtes du
Rhône Blanc 2005, spit-roasted boneless quail
stuffed with cherry bread pudding and a Vinsobres
les Cornuds Côtes du Rhône Village 2003, crispy
polenta cake timbale wrapped in applewood-smoked
bacon stuffed with chive crème fraïche with Vacqueyras
les Christins 2005, and that doesn’t even get
to the beef course! The dinner is $90 per person
plus tax and tip, and reservations are required.
Call 689-7777. . . . Sylvia and Charles James
have opened the Labrador Café at 1621 Union
St. on Keyes Avenue in the Upper Union Street
section of Schenectady. The restaurant is open
from 11:30 to 6:30 Tuesday through Saturday, and
features family recipes, sandwiches, lunches,
takeout and catering. The menu mixes standard
American fare with Polish specialties like golumbkis
and perogies, not to mention Binghamton-style
spiedies! More info: 377-7100, or thelabradorcafe.com.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.
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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.
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
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!
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..