in the House
Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 580-0312, saratogamaestros.com.
Serving lunch daily 11:30-3, dinner daily 5-9:30. AE, D, MC,
price range: $15 (smoked chicken pasta) to $38 (Angus
a homecoming of sorts for chef John LaPosta. What he’s doing
at Maestro’s is the culmination of the path he’s taken through
several area eateries, pursuing fine and casual dining. His
culinary skill has always been beyond dispute. What he’s needed
is a small-scale place of his own. So while Saratoga may be
his new home, visiting his restaurant feels like you’re being
welcomed into something that’s been there forever.
The restaurant is new to him, at least as of two years ago;
it ran for several years under the same name but different
ownership, and not always well. “We rushed into this deal,”
LaPosta explains. “We didn’t do any research about the place.
Looking back, we should have changed the name, but I liked
And he’s already made it his own. His secret? “I cater to
the locals. I’m open year-round for them. We don’t live or
die by the six weeks of track season.”
Maestro’s is tucked to one side of the Adelphi Hotel, about
as downtown as you can get in downtown Saratoga. During the
warm months, outdoor tables provide more see-the-world seating,
although I’d just as soon sit inside and listen to the jazz
that’s piped into the dining room.
The reservations desk is also outside, where Tina Kruger,
LaPosta’s partner, greets you. You can make reservations through
the restaurant’s Web site, which links you to opentable.com’s
easy-to-use system. And with a printout in hand, you’ll get
free parking around the corner on Washington Street.
Don’t fill up on the seed-encrusted flatbreads and bean dip
you’re served while contemplating the menu. There will be
house-baked bread and a dish of butter decorated with Himalayan
sea salt arriving shortly.
The menu changes often, tied to whatever the chef gets from
his suppliers, many of them locally based. “And we get seafood
in every day of the week but Sunday,” he says. “Those scallops
you had, they came right from Nantucket. They were beautiful.
I cook them like they’re supposed to be cooked, medium-rare
in the center.”
Those scallops I had perched in the midst of a big bowl of
seafood cassolette ($32), an excellent name for it, both meanings
of which refer to a small container. LaPosta’s preparation
is reminiscent of bouillabaisse, starting with an aromatic
fish stock scented with fennel and saffron and poaching within
it a seafood array. But this is a different array, with chunks
of wild striper flanked by puffy clams, outsized shrimp and
the aforementioned scallops, and large pieces of lobster hiding
in the rust-colored broth. A rouille-topped baguette
slice sits on top.
Fresh ingredients and careful prep make this dish what it
is. The chef busies himself with decor, then stands back and
lets the fish do the work. Individual flavors present themselves
in a satisfying succession as you ease your way through this
As the appetizers list makes clear, dramatic flavors are the
order of the day. LaPosta learned a traditional approach when
he was executive chef at Jack’s Oyster House many years ago;
his own personality began to emerge when he helmed the Conservatory
Grill during its first years of operation. Here he’s come
into his own.
A $17 charcuterie plate demonstrates his skill at pâté
in an assortment served with cornichons, cipollini onion,
saucisson and more. Duck pâté shares a plate with Coach
Farms goat cheese ($15), and is one of the three featured
players in the Study of Duck ($17), which arrived on a long,
rectangular plate that isolated each study in its own terrain.
Confit, that time- and labor-intensive result of curing leg
meat in duck fat, is served, shredded, on a buckwheat blini.
House-smoked breast-meat gets a fan of glazed pear slices,
and the pâté (you’ll do a double-take) has a sunny-side-over
quail’s egg on top.
We also enjoyed the summer ravioli ($10), fresh pasta with
a smoked-mozzarella filling, which LaPosta gets from Fior
d’Italia Pasta in Manchester, Vt. It’s served with broccoli
rabe, always a good thing, goat cheese, and shavings of grana
Salads range from a classic Caesar ($8) to an arugula salad
with Old Chatham Sheepherders blue cheese and cherries ($12)
and a yellow-bean smoked-chicken array ($12).
The entrées should have been more difficult to choose from.
After all, there’s wild mushroom polenta ($23), Moroccan poussin
with apricot olive relish and chickpea croquette ($33),
Copper River sockeye salmon served with sweet pea risotto
($32) and, for the faint of palate, Angus beef tenderloin
with sweet corn succotash ($38).
But I was with a kid who wanted to try a different cut of
beef, and ordered the flatiron steak ($28), second only to
the tenderloin in tenderness, grilled to creamy medium-rare
doneness, served atop sweet, buttery Yukon gold mashed potatoes.
That there’s a shallot-enhanced veal jus over top is,
almost literally, icing on the cake.
And, of course, the cassolette for me. We finished just enough
of the entrées course to get a good taste, requested the rest
wrapped, and turned our attention to dessert.
I’d seen the French press head toward other tables, and thus
knew my coffee order in advance. A dish of lemon cream, artfully
layered in its serving glass, added a fitting sweetness. My
child, however, blew aside all pretense of refinement and
ordered a slice of a chocolate-peanut butter cake to go with
her pot of tea. Such is youth.
Service here is excellent, and we were attended by a waitress
who’d worked with LaPosta at the Conservatory Grill. There’s
one more surprise that awaits you during dinner, but I’m not
going to reveal it except to murmur that it has something
to do with chocolate. Be assured, however, that you couldn’t
leave this place more satisfied.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Honest Weight Food Co-op is joining 70
other co-ops around the country to host an “Eat
Local America” challenge—challenging people to
try to consume 80 percent of what they eat from
food grown or produced locally. The challenge
begins tomorrow (Friday) and continues through
Sept. 15, and all you have to do to participate
is sign a large poster at Honest Weight Food Co-op
and keep track of your own progress. The Co-op
defines local food as that which is produced within
100 miles of the Capital Region, and the store
itself denotes the local food it stocks with a
blue ribbon. Jessica Allen-Hayek, the Co-op’s
outreach coordinator, notes that eating locally
produced food is “good for the economy, because
money from each transaction stays in the region.”
It’s also good for the environment “because the
food doesn’t travel far, thereby reducing carbon
dioxide emissions.” Best of all, it tastes better.
You can learn about Eat Local America initiatives
at eatlocalamerica.coop; to learn more about Honest
Weight Food Co-op, visit honestweight.coop. .
. . Grilled steaks and steamed lobsters are the
culinary centerpieces, along with music and drawings
for prizes as Schenectady Day Nursery holds
its summer benefit from 5 to 8 PM on Aug. 21 in
Schenectady’s Central Park. John and Karen Mantas,
proprietors of Mike’s Hot Dogs, are catering this
event for the eighth year. Advance tickets are
$40 and get you a choice of a steak or lobster
dinner that includes potato, corn, cole slaw,
beverage, roll and dessert. A surf-and-turf combo
is $65, and the children’s hot dog menu is $5.
Tickets are available at the Open Door Book Store
on Schenectady’s Jay St. Takeout will be available
and you can refresh yourself at the cash beer
and wine bar For more info: 370-4662. . . . Remember
to pass your scraps to Metroland.