Madison Ave., Albany, 935-1094. Serving breakfast and lunch
Mon-Thu 7:30-2, Fri-Sun 7:30-3, dinner Sun-Thu 5:30-10, Fri-Sat
5:30-11. AE, DC, MC, V.
price range: $18 (carne Bolognese) to $29 (rack of
By B.A. Nilsson
been a breakfast mainstay for many years, maintaining a unique
identity in a row of varied restaurants. But it hasn’t been
the luckiest place on the block. The former Madison’s End
took on new owners—Michael and Brian Viglucci and Tony Lounello,
who also own Junior’s, Spinner’s Pizza and other similar establishments.
The team added fine-dining dinners to the restaurant’s repertoire.
Then it was hit by fire late last autumn. Shuttered throughout
the winter and spring, the place re-opened this summer and
the breakfasts and lunches are back, along with yet another
approach to elegant dinners, this time with an ace in the
hole: chef Jennifer Hewes, who left her longtime position
as chef at Café Capriccio to take this post.
It’s a transition made with Capriccio owner Jim Rua’s blessing
and encouragement. During his many years in the business,
Rua has quietly nurtured a tremendous amount of talent in
that kitchen and, as with all good teachers, he imparts not
a little of his style.
During Hewes’s tenure, she absorbed Rua’s culinary approach
and took it to places of her own—she has notebooks, she told
me, filled with recipes she’s developed over the years. The
Madison’s new menu features an eclectic amalgam of preparations,
on a list that’s promised to change and grow as the restaurant’s
new identity continues to develop.
Nestled amidst a row of varied dining spots, Café Madison
maintains a unique identity. Tables, booths, and that odd
semi-upstairs dining area unfold in a railroad car-style room.
It’s all there, but it’s been refurbished to a fare-thee-well.
The place seems softer, warmer, and the outdoor patio is a
The menu will have changed by the time you read this, but
it shouldn’t be drastically different from the one I’m looking
at, a two-page promise of lively constructions. Beginning
with one of my favorite seafood preparations: tuna ceviche
($10), an appetizer portion of a cold citrus marinade
that cooks the fish to a sweet pinkness. Served with a fennel
and peppers, it’s a good-sized portion of a dish that splendidly
brightens the palate.
Other starters include calamari sautéed with tomato, garlic
and basil ($9), eggplant and ricotta Napoleon ($8), crostini
served with hummus, red pepper aïoli and tapenade, and—the
one that landed in front of me—crab cake and grilled shrimp
($12), an excellent variation on a familiar theme that showcases
the flavor of fresh crab, accenting it with three big smoky
shrimp that I was forced to share with the rest of the table.
If a salad is more to your liking, the varied quartet includes
a $5 dinner salad with local greens, a Caesar for two dollars
more, a fancy platter of homemade mozzarella ($10) pairing
the cheese with peppers, artichokes and arugula, and the one
we sampled—peach and pear ($9), in which the fruits receive
contrasting preparations (the pears are poached, the peaches
sautéed), with goat cheese and a pear vinaigrette served over
Speaking of cheese: A three-cheese selection is also available,
market priced, that fills out the platter with olives, fruit
and cured meats. An especially enticing array was on tap when
I visited, but my plan to enjoy it for dessert was blasted
by the desserts themselves.
There’s Café Capriccio legacy on the floor, too, which is
managed by Alexandra Buiton, one of Rua’s former front-of-house
stalwarts. Under her guidance, Café Madison has a similarly
friendly staff, working cooperatively, who know the menu,
know the wine, and know how to make you feel comfortable.
Which was why I felt comfortable enough to ask our server
to ask the chef to recommend an entrée. She sent out Don Quixote
short ribs ($22), a hearty portion of meat braised in rioja.
The meat leaped from the bone, with its sofrito—a celery-rich
tomato sauce—clinging its way along. The accompanying papas
Espanola were the best potato chips I’ve tasted, not least
because they still were warm.
Free range honey chicken ($19), which gets a lengthy roast
in the oven, sports a glaze tinged with white balsamic vinegar,
so you have no choice but to eat the skin. It was served with
scalloped potatoes (rich with flavorful cheese), a tower of
grilled squash and a few spears of fresh asparagus.
The Tuscan cherry porkchop ($24) features locally raised meat;
Mediterranean strip ($24) is certified Angus beef, marinated
and grilled. Other entrée items include veal scallopini ($24),
vegetable torte ($15), a seafood and chorizo mix called zarzuela
($26), pan-seared wild salmon ($24) and much more.
And there are pasta dishes, such as the shrimp pesto ($19),
a rich dish generously dotted with sautéed shrimp. The pesto
is homemade (is there any other legitimate approach?), with
toasted pine nuts and swirls of ricotta—a wonderful assembly.
By the time we reached dessert, we’d amassed a shopping bag
of leftovers. A selection of chocolate pâté, tiramisu cheesecake,
bananas foster and excellent gelato—all house made—ensured
we’d be moving that much more slowly as we headed for the
Hewes and company have a goldmine here; it’s the most satisfying
of the area’s new restaurants that I’ve visited so far this
the Food Network’s female chefs, it’s not just about what’s
in the saucepan
a year ago, one of the lo cal papers ran a story about the
emerging popularity of the Food Network among children, and
in particular, tweeners, and especially, between the hours
of 4 and 5 PM. The reporter neglected to mention that the
chefs whose shows were being aired at that time were Rachael
Ray and Giada di Laurentiis. In case you’ve been living under
a rock, Ray is the ubiquitous face of several Food Network
shows, including 30 Minute Meals, not to mention her
own talk show, Dunkin Donuts ads, a magazine, and so on, ad
nauseum. Di Laurentis, granddaughter of the famous producer,
is the astonishingly pretty face of Everyday Italian,
as well as a few new ventures. Both are attractive, in wildly
divergent ways, and I find it pretty obvious why, out of the
blue, hormonal boys are hooked on watching them. Oh, excuse
me, I mean, on learning to cook.
The Food Network has cannily parlayed its various women cooks’
personae in such a way as to evoke wholesome yumminess with
a bit of va-va-voom. (A brief scan of the listings for the
shows steered by men give us a rather burly, he-man image,
as personified by Emeril Lagasse—that is, if he-men really
do yell “Bam!”—and Mario Batalli.)
In the case of Ray, whose intense popularity boggles this
writer’s mind, the appeal is simple: She’s cute, in a nonthreatening
sort of way. She also never shuts up. My kids still make fun
of a show they watched in which Ray was whipping up veal chops
for her in-laws, in 30 minutes or less, and she just never
stopped talking about how much she loves, loves, loves those
folks. She could have been sautéing puppies with Michael Vick
for all we knew, so dazed we were by the nonstop barrage of
kudos for the in-laws. Ray, featured in numerous close-ups
depicting her chipmunk cheeks, makes such daunting tasks as
making a meatball sub or a tossed salad with prewashed greens
seem doable; she’s not going to critique you for not knowing
the proper way to peel ginger.
Working the other end of the glamour spectrum, the Food Network
showcases Di Laurentis in a gleaming white and stainless-steel
kitchen, with lovely glassware and profusions of fresh herbs.
For all her talk about authentic Italian, this woman’s basically
an L.A. trust-fund kid, but that can’t completely detract
from her obvious passion for whipping up mocha semifreddo.
I can well imagine the veritable orgasm she produces when
waxing poetic about words like mascarpone and prosciutto;
in her Rembrandt-esque mouth, these ingredients come across
like soft porn for foodies. Watching Everyday Italian,
you’ll be inundated with glimpses of Giada, her long curls
held back loosely, her skin glowing and her lovely breasts
ever present just above her cutting knife. Sensing a good
thing, the Food Network’s Web site gives you the opportunity
to watch videos of Giada “at work,” to “Get to Know Giada”
through her opinions on table setting, or to take a quiz that
tests your Giada I.Q.
Granted, with older women such as the Southerner Paula Deen,
it’s not so much tight close-ups of revealing cleavage. Rather,
the gregarious Deen, who favors casual denim tops and often
shares the stage with her second husband or her two grown
sons, practically oozes down-home comfort. Her specialties
are things with names like cheesy broccoli bake and zesty
cheese straws, and she counts mayonnaise and sour cream as
everyday pantry essentials. The thing about Deen is that she
taps into every man’s subliminal wet dream that, no matter
how old he is, his wife is gonna whet his, er, whistle with
a hearty home-cooked meal, or, for sons, that Mom’s always
gonna be on hand with a comforting plate of whoopie pies.
Then there are the basically sexless Sandra Lee and Robin
Miller. The former, tall, blonde and skinny in a Tippi Hedren
sort of way, has written several books and now has her own
show, Semi-Homemade Cooking With Sandra Lee, in which
she perpetuates the idea that good things can come of frozen
mango (toss it in a salad!). A typical “wished I’d thought
of that!” moment on Lee’s show is when, in making “Island
Chicken,” a sort of jerk-chicken dish with canned pineapple,
she actually recommends Dole. Who’d have thought? That saves
us all from having to comparison shop.
The soccer mom-ish Miller, on the other hand, is the mistress
of the do-ahead meal, the time-saver dish. She tosses off
helpful tidbits like “Make extra rice, and store the rest
for another night.” She also likes the convenience of jarred
sliced garlic (frequent viewings have yet to reveal whether
she endorses the flavor of same).
While neither Lee nor Miller seem to pique much in the way
of sexual desire, their presence is a thoughtful nod to guys
out there who, while they may daydream about a Giada or even
a Rachael, or wish that Mom were a little more like Paula,
appreciate the fact that they can come home to a reasonably
attractive person who won’t startle the neighbors or freak
out the in-laws by suggesting we try sushi, or roasting those
late-harvest tomatoes. A little something for everybody would
seem like a programmer’s best plan of action, but in the case
of the Food Network and its stable of female stars, there’s
a little more cooking than what’s on the stove.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Bistro (25 Quackenbush
Square, Albany) presents an International Beer
Dinner at 6:30 PM tonight (Thursday, Oct. 4) featuring
a guest speaker from World Class Beverages to
introduce the beverages. Enjoy spicy shrimp and
corn bisque or an Alsatian tarte with a German
Späten Oktoberfest, filet mignon tips and portobello
mushrooms or classic choucroute garnie with
a Kronenbourg 1664 (France) and much more, including
a dessert beer. It’s $45 per person, beer included.
Reserve seats by calling 465-1111. . . . Honest
Weight Food Co-op celebrates Local Harvest
month with a series of events: This Saturday (Oct.
6), they’ll be grilling fresh local vegetables,
locally grown chicken and quorn, a non-soy meat
alternative, using coffee-infused grilling sauces
from Keuka Lake Sauces from 11 AM to 3 PM. On
Oct. 7 from 1 to 3 PM, enjoy a demonstration of
pumpkin carving using locally grown pumpkins.
All events are free . . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland (email@example.com).
want your feedback
you eaten at any
recently reviewed restaurants?
Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...
address not required to submit your feedback, but required to
be placed in running for a Van Dyck Gift Certificate.
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..