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Year In Review 2008 | Food | Cinema | Theater | Dance | Art | Books | Classical | Live | Recordings

Best of 2007

Critic: B. A. Nilsson

1. The Rose and Kettle

4 Lancaster St., Cherry Valley

It’s a family business: Dana Spiotta runs the floor; her husband Clement Coleman is the chef. They met in a Manhattan restaurant, but quit the city for country life. Here they offer a menu of innovative recipes built around food sourced as locally as possible. Add to this their charming, historic building in a charming, historic village, and you have every reason to make the journey west. Note that the winter hours are weekends only.

2. Tosca Grille

200 Broadway, Troy

Chef Larry Schepici is establishing something of an empire in Troy, with the nearby Ilium Café and a newly opened food market. Tosca Grille establishes a fine-dining benchmark. From the chipotle-mango sauce accompanying the crab cakes to the brilliant American rack of lamb, you’ll find familiar ingredients in new guises served with panache in comfortable, elegant surroundings.

3. Café Madison

1108 Madison Ave., Albany

The former Madison’s End welcomes chef Jennifer Hewes, who left her longtime position as chef at Café Capriccio, to bring fine dining with a Mediterranean flair to this Madison Avenue mainstay. It’s been extensively remodelled and feels formal but festive. You’ll find such striking menu items as tuna ceviche, a cold citrus marinade that cooks the fish to a sweet pinkness, and Don Quixote short ribs, a hearty portion of meat braised in rioja, very osso buco reminiscent, served with sofrito, a celery-rich tomato sauce.

4. Church and Main

49 Church St., Canajoharie

Things are heating up out west. Here’s another couple—Robyn Dousharm and Michael Lapi— who run a restaurant that specializes in creative preparations of local fare. Look for ingredients from Free Bird Farm in Palatine Bridge, Columbia County’s Herondale Farm,

Adirondacks-based Nettle Meadow Goat Farm and more, served in a handsomely remodeled storefront in the heart of this neglected city.

5. Chianti il Ristoranti

208 S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs

In the decade since David Zecchini eased into Saratoga with this restaurant, he’s followed it with others—but Chianti remains the gold standard, a strikingly designed space where excellent northern Italian cuisine thrives. When you taste the carpaccio, you’ll understand. Veronese chef Fabrizio Bazzani also makes wonderful risotto, terrific pasta and meat dishes, and as you’re singing his braises you might hear Zecchini vocalizing as well.

6. Avenue A

544 Delaware Ave., Albany

Chef Un-Hui Filomeno has relocated and reopened in the former Bagel Bite, offering an international menu that maintains several old favorites—her Korean chap chae, for example, and an amazing jambalaya—along with pan-fried yakimandu dumplings, Portuguese caldo verde and a casserole of lobster meat and bowtie pasta baked with five types of cheese that blend together deliciously. You’ll like the dark look of the place, and the service, led by Filomeno’s son, José, is swift and accomplished.

7. The Reluctant Panther

17-39 West Road, Manchester, Vt.

Jerry and Liz Lavalley moved from Dallas two years ago to refurbish this inn, which burned to the ground just as they finished. Rebuilt and reborn, it’s not only a charming place to stay, but a great place for dinner. Chef Daniel Jackson is a Culinary Institute of America grad, and offers such fare as Bell & Evans organic, antibiotic-free chicken breast, which he finishes with morels and a champagne-based cream sauce touched with mustard. An order of Mediterranean tapas arrives on a large black plate, the better to set off the roasted garlic hummus, locally produced feta, tabbouleh salad, pita slices and more. Their attention to detail is impeccable; you’ll find your meal served on everything from Bennington pottery to Royal Doulton china.

8. Lime

7 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs

Chef-owner Will Yund traveled to Barbados recently, and the bold flavors he encountered inspired him to create a menu of Caribbean-inspired cookery. The tilapia, which can be seasoned with some fire if you wish, is served with blackened green beans and coconut-flavored mashed potatoes. The former deli has been reworked into a casual eatery with an open kitchen, making this a valuable and lively addition to Saratoga’s eclectically growing culinary scene.

9. Afghan Grill

952 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham

Our roster of Middle Eastern eateries was very much enriched when the former pizza joint in Latham’s Peter Harris Plaza switched to Afghan fare. Chef Hayat Osmani offers a full menu of kebabs and other meat dishes, along with a fine array of vegetarian items like Sabzi, an herb-and-peppers-enhanced spinach dish, gulpi, a similar preparation with cauliflower, and the eggplant-based badenjan borani. A daily lunch buffet is an economical way to meet the cuisine.

10. Sakura

468 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham

I have a soft spot for hibachi dinners, with an acrobatically assured knife-wielding chef prepping and grilling the meal as I watch. Here’s a charming venue for such cookery, but it’s also a great place for sushi, for traditional Japanese fare like teriyaki and tempura, for noodle soup, and for an all-in-one Bento box meal. Eager service, low prices (and a further discount at least through March), and its just-off-the-Northway accessibility are even more reasons to go.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


It’s pretty much Christmas from now till the end of the year, a good time to enjoy a holiday wine dinner at Parisi’s Steakhouse (11 N. Broadway, Schenectady). It’s a five-course dinner that takes place at 7 PM on Monday (Dec. 3), and features a collaboration with Cornell’s Restaurant, which is sending chef Armondo Cioccke to join Parisi’s chef Steve Morgan to craft a meal paired with an appropriate selection of wines. Courses include sliced tenderloin crostini with roasted-tomato vinaigrette, sesame-encrusted salmon served over a bed of spring mix, a surf-and-turf risotto and more. And save room for tiramisu. Dinner is $60 plus tax and tip, and reservations are required— call 374-0100. . . . Champagne will be on tap (so to speak) at a special dinner on Dec. 7, 7 PM, at New World Home Cooking Co. (Route 212, Saugerties), where chef Ric Orlando has created a menu that includes duck broth with Asian greens and scrambled duck egg (paired with Langlois Estate Cremant de Loire), lobster tamale with corn smut crema (Iron Horse Vintage Brut 2002), hot smoked salmon (Taittinger Brut La Francaise), pheasant Kiev (Charles Heidsick Brut Reserve) and more. It’s $85 per person, by reservation only, so call 845-246-0900. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.

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